Ecosystem-based management (EBM) has recently received considerable attention. However, examples of empirical approaches to marine EBM are scarce. Therefore, empirical information on the presence of EBM elements within existing policies and the way they may provide settings and lessons for EBM implementation is timely. This study analyses stakeholders' perceptions on the existence of EBM principles in current marine management practices and policies, and how they determine perceptions for success and satisfaction regarding coastal management within selected case studies drawn from four developing countries in the Southern Cone of South America. Patterns of response across study sites show that although EBM principles as such are not explicitly included in management/conservation plans, there are policies (mainly local), which generate conditions for more explicit inclusion of them. These are based on participatory bottom-up planning, place-based management and consensus reaching: all elements included within the theoretical literature on EBM implementation.
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The Andreoni Canal in the Uruguayan Bañados del Este Biosphere Reserve: This reserve (12,500 km 2 ) and the contiguous coastal fringe is characterized by wetlands and coastal lagoons and is a RAMSAR site since 1984 (33°00′–34°35′ S; 53°17′–54°23′ W). A system of canals (Andreoni Canal; finalized 1981) was built to drain wetlands and increase the surface available for agriculture. The Canal discharges freshwater in the Atlantic Ocean, on Barra del Chuy beach. This ecosystem (4276 km 2 ) has well-defined biophysical boundaries. In response to unplanned land use fostering environmental impacts (hydrological modifications, eutrophication, desiccation of littoral wetlands), a comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan for the area was developed in 1992. The plan was supported by a consortium of public and private institutions (“Sustainable Development and Biodiversity Conservation Program of the Bañados del Este”)  , created by a Global Environmental Facility (GEF) initiative. A Management Plan directed to establish the zoning of the Biosphere Reserve was delineated, including the area of influence of the Andreoni Canal proposed as a “Focal Management Area”. The term “Ecosystem Management” is explicitly included in the plan ( Table 2 ).
- Human dimensions
- Marine conservation
- Place-based management