The ecosystem approach is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. Application of the ecosystem approach will help to reach a balance of the three objectives of the Convention. It is based on the application of appropriate scientific methodologies focused on levels of biological organization which encompass the essential processes, functions and interactions among organisms and their environment. It recognizes that humans, with their cultural diversity, are an integral component of ecosystems.
"Ecosystem" means a dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit". (Article 2 of the Convention)
As described by the Conference of the Parties, the ecosystem approach is the primary framework for action under the Convention. The Conference of the Parties, at its Fifth Meeting, endorsed the description of the ecosystem approach and operational guidance and recommended the application of the principles and other guidance on the Ecosystem Approach (decision V/6). The seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties agreed that the priority at this time should be on facilitating implementation of the ecosystem approach and welcomed additional guidelines to this effect (decision VII/11).