Ecosystem Services & Biodiversity (ESB)

Management & Practices

Knowing how to manage ecosystems and ecosystem services is an essential step for their enhancement and protection. These management practices draw on skill sets that are not explicitly part of modern agriculture, forestry or fisheries training. They include identifying and undertaking measures that enhance biological functions underpinning production. For example:

  • Designing integrated crop-livestock-fisheries systems that are based on the recycling of nutrients between farm components: livestock manure and other farm wastes may fertilize fish ponds, pond sediments fertilize crops and crop co-products feed livestock.
  • Managing a diversity of varieties of the same crop to ensure resilience and improved nutrition.
  • Setting up agro-forestry systems, which significantly increase yields while delivering other services such as soil retention, sustaining pollinators that service crops and or water and air purification.

FAO is fostering a greater understanding of the specific knowledge base and practices needed to manage ecosystem services across production sectors.

The impact of good management practices

It is important to note that the impact of managing one ecosystem and its services well has repercussions for many surrounding ecosystems and their services. Each type of ecosystem provides a wide range of services (provisioning, regulating, supporting and cultural): clean air, clean water, carbon sequestration, pollination, the potential for tourism, etc. None of these should be considered in isolation. The natural resource base extends across different natural systems of production. Yet measures developed to conserve and sustain natural resources and ecosystem services rarely span across different production systems, from forests, to fisheries, to farms, or recognise the economic values that good management in one system confers on adjacent ecosystems.

Example: How do well-managed forests increase fish populations?

  • Water that flows in rivers from their upstream sources to the coast brings fresh water and nutrients to the coastal area, and lowers the salinity of water and soil.
  • This allows mangroves to grow well, and enables improved aquaculture.
  • When mangroves are healthy, they protect the ecosystems inland from extreme weather events.
  • Therefore, effective management of the watershed forest upstream keeps the coastal ecosystems healthy, productive and protected.
  • When these forests are poorly managed, the water flow becomes erratic. There are more frequent floods, more sediment flows downstream and a lower delivery of freshwater. This has a negative impact on coastal food production through fisheries.