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Key Principles

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A set of key principles to underpin the Framework were developed by stakeholders. When applying the Framework and conducting an ecosystem services assessment in SEQ, below are the key principles which must be considered.


The bulk of ecosystem services come from natural ecosystems

The bulk of ecosystem services come from natural ecosystems.

Ecosystem services is only one tool for nature conservation.

The size, location and arrangement of ecosystems across a landscape is important to ecosystem service provision .

Due to lack of certainty, caution should be used when applying the Framework.

Natural systems provide the primary inputs into our economy and are on average more biodiverse than modified ecosystems. The fact that natural ecosystems are on average more biodiverse, means they have a greater potential to provide a wider range and suite of ecosystem services. Because natural ecosystems are self regulating also means that natural ecosystems have a greater potential to provide ecosystem services with the least human input to the system.


Ecosystem services is only one tool for nature conservation

In order to conserve for ecosystem services, conservation must be applied at the appropriate scale (e.g. the whole of ecosystem, ecosystem function or ecosystem services level). The appropriate scale is dependant on the question being asked or decision being made. Although conserving for ecosystem services ultimately requires some form of nature conservation, it should be recognised that ecosystem services is anthropocentric and conserving for ecosystem services is not the panacea of nature conservation. There are many other nature conservation tools that may be applied depending on the decision making context (e.g. endangered species conservation). Integrating ecosystem service conservation into current nature conservation mechanisms adds value by conserving for both nature and benefits to people.


The size, location and arrangement of ecosystems is important              

Ecosystems do not function in silos, they are not isolated in space. An ecosystem may depend on adjacent ecosystems to provide a service. Although the size, location and arrangement of ecosystems is considered secondary in systems analysis, the size, location and arrangement of ecosystems are important to determining how much ecosystem service is being provided; any ecological or social synergistic benefits or impacts; who the beneficiaries are of the service; priority areas for conservation; and maintaining the health and resilience of ecosystems.

Ecosystem boundaries are diffuse and a change in structure and/or management practice in one ecosystem is likely to impact on surrounding ecosystems (or even those further afield). For example, excess nutrients entering a riverine wetland can flow downstream and impact coastal zone wetlands several kilometres away. Better management in one ecosystem often induces better management in adjacent ecosystems. Actual and potential benefits and impacts on adjacent ecosystems must be assessed and adaptive management practices applied.


Ecosystem services for landscape rather than species conservation

This key principle is associated with the one above. Ecosystem services are derived from the complex interactions between biotic and abiotic components of an ecosystem and the size, distribution and diversity of ecosystems occurring across the landscape. No individual species, group of species or individual ecosystem can provide the full suite of ecosystem services identified in this Framework. Ecosystem services is not the most appropriate tool to identify conservation efforts for specific species (albeit 'Iconic Species'). Also, as this Framework is anthropocentirc by nature it does not assess or provide guidance on rare, endangered or threatened species, which may or may not provide benefits to people. Further information on this is provided under the Ecosystem Reporting Categories and Biodiversity webpages. 


Due to the lack of certainty, caution should be used with application

With the emergence of increasingly unpredictable, uncertain, and unquantifiable but possibly catastrophic risks such as those associated with genetically modified organisms, climate change and loss of keystone species, societies such as SEQ are confronted with the need to protect humans and the environment against uncertain risks of human action. The Precautionary Principle states 'where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing costeffective measures to prevent environmental degradation'. The Precautionary Principle  should be used when applying the Framework.