ISSN: 1578-665X | e-ISSN: 2014-928X An international journal devoted to the study and conservation of animal biodiversity, open-access, free for authors, driven by a fast-paced editorial process that includes assessment by experts. It is published twice a year.

Limits to natural variation: implications for systemic management

Fowler, C. W.  Hobbs, L. 


Collectively, the tenets and principles of management emphasize the importance of recognizing and understanding limits. These tenets require the demonstration, measurement and practical use of information about limits to natural variation. It is important to identify limits so as not to incur the risks and loss of integrity when limits are exceeded. Thus, by managing within natural limits, humans (managers) simultaneously can achieve sustainability and minimize risk, as well as account for complexity. This is at the heart of systemic management. Systemic management embodies the basic tenets of management. One tenet requires that management ensure that nothing exceed the limits observed in its natural variation. This tenet is based on the principle that variation is constrained by a variety of limiting factors, many of which involve risks. Another tenet of management requires that such factors be considered simultaneously, exhaustively, and in proportion to their relative importance. These factors, in combination, make up the complexity that managers are required to consider in applying the basic principles of management. This combination of elements is reflected in observed limits to natural variation that account for each factor and its relative importance. This paper summarizes conclusions from the literature that has addressed the concept of limits to natural variation, especially in regard to management. It describes: 1. How such limits are inherent to complex systems; 2. How limits have been recognized to be important to the process of management; 3. How they can be used in management. The inherent limits include both those set by the context in which systems occur (extrinsic factors) as well as those set by the components and processes within systems (intrinsic factors). This paper shows that information about limits is of utility in guiding human action to fit humans within the normal range of natural variation. This is part of systemic management: finding an integral and sustainable place for humans in systems such as ecosystems and the biosphere. Another part of sustainability, however, involves action to promote systems capable of sustainably supporting humans and human activities, not only as individuals, but also as a species. It is important to distinguish what can and what can not be done in this regard.

Key words

Systemic management, Limits, Variation, Ecosystems, Single species, Resources

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Índex de Volume 25.2 (2002)