A recent article on the Phys Org website notes that managing an ecosystem as a whole will improve the environment and the economy of whatever natural resource is being managed.
When scientist Robert Paine first examined the ecosystem of a tidal pool in the 1970s and brought to light the concept of keystone species, he was further explaining a key component of Holistic Management–that nature functions in wholes. In the case of the tidal pool he identified 15 species within that ecosystem. He removed one species, the starfish (a predator), and returned a year later to see how that removal had affected the tidal pool ecosystem. There were now only 8 species left.
The removal of that critical species had multiple consequences and demonstrated the complexity of nature and why there is a need for a decision-making process to help humans more effectively relate to nature and reduce the unintended consequences that can occur from our decisions and actions.
In the case of “Holistic management makes ecosystems healthier, people wealthier” Kevin Dennehy references a new Yale-led study in which scientists are quantifying the value of “natural capital” assets. In this particular article they look at a Baltic Sea fishery ecosystem. They are looking at how managing all the species in the system as a whole actually increases the wealth of the entire system over 50 years compared to the decline in wealth that occurs if people manage only for one species.
In this particular case they looked at three fish species—cod, herring, and sprat. Both herring and sprat are predators (like the starfish) but cod is their predator (the food chain at work). So does the fact that herring and sprat populations influence the resilience of the whole system including the health of the cod population, increase their value beyond the value they have as a human prey? The results published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences say yes. Naturally, this makes sense because we are talking about the interdependence of species. You need to look at the value of the whole and determine the best way to manage it to increase the ecosystem function (including the biological community). That effort will, in turn, allow for more resilience in the system and greater wealth for those managing that system.
Eli Fenichel, a professor at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and senior author of the study notes: “Overall we estimate that the value stored in this fishery was just over 1.2 billion euros under the old single-species management,” he said. “That value goes up to just under 1.5 billion euros under a new ecosystem-based management. That’s a pretty substantial bump.” Fenichel uses the analogy of if you have a lot of hot dogs, then you increase the value of hot dog buns because they have a complementary relationship. Nature is filled with these kinds of relationships and management that takes that into consideration has the potential to work in harmony with ecosystem processes rather than compete against them and reap the rewards.
Visit HMI’s “Why Holistic Management” page to learn the basics of Holistic Management and how it helps people develop their holistic thinking and decision-making skills to better manage ecosystem health and wealth. If you want to do dig deeper, download HMI’s free Introduction to Holistic Management e-book.
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