The well-being of people all over the world depends on the various goods and services provided by ecosystems, including food, fuel, construction materials, clean water and air, and protection from natural hazards. Ecosystems, however, are under increasing pressure from unsustainable use and other threats including outright conversion. To address this concern, IUCN promotes the sound management of ecosystems through the wider application of the Ecosystem Approach – a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that places human needs at its centre, through the Ecosystem Management Programme.

The Ecosystem Management Programme works on four key programmatic areas for IUCN:

  • Drylands, where the programme aims to demonstrate the importance of dryland ecosystem services for livelihood improvement and for adapting to climate change.
  • Climate Change, where the Climate Change Initiative aims to include biodiversity concerns in adaptation and mitigation polices and practice, as well as furthering natural resource management strategies that help biodiversity and people to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The Initiative coordinates Climate Change work across IUCN's programmes, regions, Commissions and member organizations.
  • Disaster Risk Reduction, where the programme aims to promote integration of ecosystem management, livelihoods, community vulnerability and climate change adaptation to disaster management.
  • Red List of Ecosystems, compiles information on the state of the world’s ecosystems at different geographic scales. Its central objective is to assess the risk of ecosystem collapse.

In addition, the Programme provides technical input on integrating wider ecosystem-scale biodiversity issues into IUCN’s programmes globally, regionally and nationally.

The Programme also serves as a focal point in the Secretariat for IUCN’s Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM), a network of more than 800 volunteer ecosystem management experts from around the world. The Ecosystem Management Programme works in close collaboration with CEM to realize the Commission’s objectives in enhancing the implementation of the Ecosystem Approach. CEM members also contribute technical information to the Ecosystem Management Series: a compilation of best practices and lessons learnt in implementing the Ecosystem Approach.