Ecosystem management is becoming widely encouraged as a solution to many local, regional, national, and international forest management issues. Most people agree on the general substance of ecosystem management; that is, management that preserves and sustains the ecosystem while providing a range of goods and services to current and future stakeholders.The current challenge is develop a robust process to decide how to apply ecosystem management. To do this requires understanding what an ecosystem is, how we apply the management process, and how ecosystems and management interact.

In this website we develop a conceptual framework for ecosystem management that draws on recent advances in ecosystem science, management science, and systems theory.This introduction outlines the general approach. Links to the left will take you to detailed discussions of the concepts behind the approach. We focus on the application of ecosystem management to forest ecosystems here, but our approach is sufficiently general to be used or readily adapted to any ecosystem, be it coral reefs or prairie grasslands.

The natural world is extremely complex. The ecosystem concept was developed to order the way in which scientists approached the study of nature. It was quickly recognized that ecosystems are hierarchical, being composed of subsystems and sub-subsystems that span many spatial and temporal scales. The process of making and implementing management decisions for multiple-scale hierarchical systems is not intuitively obvious, particularly when there are multiple objectives and stakeholders. General systems theory deals explicitly with such problems and provides powerful insight into how management and decision-making concepts can be applied to hierarchical systems such as ecosystems. Applying systems concepts to the problem of ecosystem management provides a conceptual framework for multiple-objective, multiple-scale forest management. We refer to this as the landscape approach to ecosystem management.

Because of the complex cultural, economic, and ecological interactions involved in managing ecosystems, it is necessary to describe a decision-making process that incorporates such a hierarchical approach to ecosystem management.The rational-iterative decision-making process provides such a framework. However, applying such an approach to information-rich systems such as ecosystems, requires tools that perform repetitive calculations and summarizations very efficiently. Throughout this website we incorporate output from such tools, in particular the Landscape Management System (LMS), the Stand Visualization System (SVS), and the landscape-scale visualization program, Envision. In addition, we provide a link to the ongoing development, implementation, and monitoring of management plans for specific forests (e.g., University of Washington's Pack Demonstration Forest and the Satsop Forest) that use the landscape approach to ecosystem management described here.

This website is intended to demonstrate the conceptual basis for a robust systems-based approach to ecosystem management and stimulate the development of similar approaches.

This website is based on cooperative research and development of the University of Washington College of Forest Resources; USDA Forest Service, and other cooperators.