The many components of biodiversity control the stores and flows of energy, water and nutrients within ecosystems, and provide resistance to major perturbations. A much better knowledge of ecosystem functions and structure, and the roles of the components of biological diversity in ecosystems, is required, especially to understand: (i) ecosystem resilience and the effects of biodiversity loss (species and genetic levels) and habitat fragmentation; (ii) underlying causes of biodiversity loss; and (iii) determinants of local biological diversity in management decisions. Functional biodiversity in ecosystems provides many goods and services of economic and social importance. While there is a need to accelerate efforts to gain new knowledge about functional biodiversity, ecosystem management has to be carried out even in the absence of such knowledge.
The ecosystem concept is dynamic and variable and can be applied at different scales, though for management purposes it is generally used to group broadly similar communities, such as temperate rainforests or coral reefs. A key element in ecosystems is that in the natural state, ecological processes such as energy flows and water cycles are conserved.
Information from all sources is critical to arriving at effective ecosystem management strategies. A much better knowledge of ecosystem functions and the impact of human use is desirable. All relevant information from any concerned area should be shared with all stakeholders and actors, taking into account, inter alia, any decision to be taken under Article 8(j) of the [Convention on Biological Diversity]. Assumptions behind proposed management decisions should be made explicit and checked against available knowledge and views of stakeholders.
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.
Under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, thirty-three research institutes and fifty-two stationary experimental stations have been organized into The Chinese Research Network of Ecosystems, involving more than one thousand scientists in the study of ecosystems. The National Research Network of Forest Ecosystems has twenty stations. In the sector of environmental protection, monitoring stations have been established for the study of the ecologies of grasslands, deserts, wetlands and forests.
2. Ecosystem processes are characterized by varying temporal scales and lag-effects. This inherently conflicts with the tendency of humans to favour short-term gains and immediate benefits over future ones.