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The Ecosystem Approach (EcAp)


Presentation of the EcAp                                                                                                                         


The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) defines the ecosystem approach as “a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way". It goes beyond examining single issues, species, or ecosystem functions in isolation. Instead, it recognizes ecological systems for what they are: rich mixes of elements that interact with each other continuously. This understanding is particularly important for coasts and seas, where the nature of water keeps systems and functions connected.

The Ecosystem Approach is also a way of making decisions in order to manage human activities sustainably. It recognises that human's activities both affect the ecosystem and depend on it. Thus, it ames to improve the way human activities are managed for the protection of the marine environment.


The EcAp governance                                                                                                                               


  • Consideration of the EcAp by the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention
  • At their 15th meeting, held in January 2008 in Almeria (Spain), the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention have adopted the Ecosystem Approach and agreed a  road map for its implementation. Thus the EcAp becomes a specific process under the UNEP/ MAP Barcelona Convention, as its Contracting Parties have committed to implement it in the Mediterranean with the ultimate objective of achieving the Good Environmental Status (GES) of the Mediterranean Sea.

    The main valued added of the Ecosystems Approach in the context of the Barcelona Convention is a renewed emphasis on implementation and integration that will strengthen our ability to understand and address cumulative risks and effects as well as to better focus our actions on priority targets.  Simply put, the EcAp brings MAP’s many sectoral analyses and management measures into a single integrated framework which will results in an adaptive management strategy that will be periodically monitored, evaluated and revised through a rigorous 2012-2018 Six-year first Management Cycle.

    Decision IG.17/6 on “Implementation of the ecosystem approach to the management of human activities that may affect the Mediterranean marine and coastal environment”, Decision IG.20/4 on “Implementing MAP ecosystem approach roadmap: Mediterranean Ecological and Operational Objectives, Indicators and Timetable for implementing the ecosystem approach roadmap adopted by the Contracting parties to the Barcelona Convention”, Decision IG. 21/3 on "The Ecosystem Approach including adopting definitions of Good Environmental Status (GES) and targets" and Decision IG.22/7 on "Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme of the Mediterranean Sea and Coast and Related Assessment Criteria", respectively in COP 15 (2008), COP17 (2012), COP 18 (2013) and COP 19 (2016) articulate a systematic process for moving forward towards more effective ecosystems-based management in the Mediterranean. They also contain the agreement reached on the progress achieved and define priorities on the way forward.

    Calendar of the EcAp implementation process

    At their fifteenth meeting, held in Almeria (Spain), and throught the Decision IG.17/6, Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention agreed a road map for the implementation of the Ecosystem  Approach. It consists on a seven steps process for moving towards a more effective ecosystem-based management.



  • The 7 steps of the EcAp RoadMap

    Implementation of the EcAp

    Implementation of the EcAp - Step 1

    "A healthy Mediterranean with marine and coastal ecosystems that are productive and biologically diverse for the benefit of present and future generations".

    Implementation of the EcAp - Step 2

    Contracting Parties agreed that the ecological vision of the Ecosystem Approach to be realized through the following strategic goals:

    • To protect, allow recovery and, where practicable, restore the structure and function of marine and coastal ecosystems thus also protecting biodiversity, in order to achieve and maintain good ecological status and allow for their sustainable use
    • To reduce pollution in the marine and coastal environment so as to minimize impacts on and risks to human and/or ecosystem health and/or uses of the sea and the coasts
    • To prevent, reduce and manage the vulnerability of the sea and the coasts to risks induced by human activities and natural events

    Implementation of the EcAp - Step 3

    The UNEP/MAP Barcelona Convention Initial Integrated Assessment contains information on the overall nature of the ecosystems in the Mediterranean, including physical and ecological characteristics, pressures that affect the state of the marine environment, conditions or state of the coastal and marine ecosystems, and expected response of ecosystem if trends continue.
    It also identifies existing pressures and impacts affecting the Mediterranean region as well as emerging ones. It has also been useful in highlighting information availability and needs going into the future.

    Implementation of the EcAp - Step 4

    Ecological Objectives associated to RAC/SPA activities:

    • Ecological objective 1: Biological diversity is maintained or enhanced
    • Ecological objective 2: Non-indigenous species introduced by human activities are at levels that do not adversely alter the ecosystem.
    • Ecological objective 3: Populations of selected commercially exploited fish and shellfish are within biologically safe limits, exhibiting a population age and size distribution that is indicative of a healthy stock.
    • Ecological objective 4: Alterations to components of marine food webs caused by resource extraction or human-induced environmental changes do not have long-term adverse effects on food web dynamics and related viability.
    • Ecological objective 6: Sea-floor integrity is maintained, especially in priority benthic habitats.

    The complete list of Ecological Objectives (Read more)

    Implementation of the EcAp - Step 5

    This step includes the preparation of the Integrated monitoring and Assessment Programme.

    The elaboration of the IMAP was carried out by the Correspondence Group on Monitoring (CORMON) and was adopted at the 19th meeting of the Contracting Parties, Athens, 9-12 February 2016.

    The IMAP aims to lay down the principles for the update of the existing national monitoring and assessment programmes, following the agreed common indicators. It provides to Contracting Parties guidance on methodologies, monitoring and assessment techniques, specifics, for each common indicator and analyses key outstanding issues also in an integrated manner. It will also be a common basis for the development of the national integrated monitoring and assessment programmes that are the subject of this request.

    Implementation of the EcAp - Step 6

    This step of the EcAp implementation process is under excecution

    Implementation of the EcAp - Step 7

    This step of the EcAp implementation process is not yet developed


Projects to support the EcAp process                                                                                                   


Mainstreaming the Ecosystem Approach into the work of UNEP/MAP Barcelona Convention and achieving the GES of the Mediterranean Sea and Coast through the EcAp process are supported by two projects:

  1. EcAp-Med I project (2012-2015): Implementation of the Ecosystem Approach (EcAp) in the Mediterranean by the Contracting parties in the context of the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal region of the Mediterranean and its Protocols:
  2. The overall objective of this project is to support UNEP/MAP to implement the Conference Of Parties decisions regarding the application of ecosystem approach in the Mediterranean in full synergy and coherence with the implementation of the European Union (EU) Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

    In particular, the project aims to support implementation of core activities related to the EcAp in UNEP/MAP’s Programme of Work and in particular to mobilize the capacity of the Coordinating Unit, the MAP components and that of its partners to achieve the mandates received in Decision IG.20/4 on “Implementing MAP ecosystem approach roadmap”.

  3. EcAp-Med II project (2015-2019): Mediterranean implementation of the Ecosystem Approach, in coherence with the EU MSFD:
  4. With the ultimate objective of achieving the Good Ecological Status (GES) of the Mediterranean Sea, this project seeks to support: UNEP/MAP Bacelona Convention and its Southern Mediterranean Contracting Parties to implement the ecosystem approach (EcAp) in synergy and coherence with the implementation of the European Union (EU) Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). At this stage of the Ecosystem Approach implementation, this project aims particulary to support Southern Mediterranean Contracting Parties to implement the EcAp Roadmap, through assisting them in establishing new monitoring programmes in line with EcAP.