Toward an ecological framework for sustainability: considerations for ecosystem management
Stephen R. Dovers and Tony W. Norton
Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, Institute of Advanced Studies, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia, 0200
Increasingly, resource and environmental management issues are considered within the emerging framework of sustainability (sustainable development, ecologically sustainable development, sustainable environmental management). While this notion has great potential as an integrative framework, current mainstream approaches and definitions tend to be vague, inoperative and do not translate well to the level of management in specific ecosystems. The current debate about "sustainable development" lacks structure, clarity and an operational direction. In particular, it if difficult to translate the general concerns of sustainability in a manner useful to a task such as ecosystem management.
This paper takes a long-term, systems view to construct an integrative approach to sustainability. This approach is more cognisant of ecological realities than the notion of sustainable development as presently construed. Extending the principles thus identified, a checklist of questions to guide considerations in ecosystem management at a more practice level is then constructed. Two examples from resource and environmental management in Australia - fisheries and the conservation of terrestial species (particularly the koala Phascolarctos cinereus) - are analysed to support the discussion.