The NEAT Tree provides guidance for selecting and using a suite of nine tools that have been adapted to incorporate the 12 principles of the Ecosystem Approach. The principles below have been adapted from the original Convention on Biological Diversity guidelines.

Implications of the 12 Ecosystem Approach principles for developing and using tools

1. Promote societal choice using transparent and equitable processes and tools

Use decision support tools that incorporate viewpoints of stakeholders; recognise conflicting positions and trade-offs and build into processes and decisions in a transparent manner.

2. Delegate decisions to the most suitable scale

Tools to be operable at and across different scales to engage all potential stakeholders; they need to be accessible, robust, flexible and intuitive to enable multiple participants to work at different levels.

3. Assess adjacent effects

Tools that address ecosystems as connected and functioning systems, but which can function with evidence gaps. Mechanisms needed to improve framing and bounding of assessments - use natural boundaries at a landscape-scale.

4. Incorporate economic and social drivers

Address and understand relationships between natural systems, people and the economy. Recognise and assess drivers of change that consider both knowledge gaps and uncertainty. Recognise the complexity of natural systems (not simply stocks) and that impacts can be difficult to predict. Tools that can help realise opportunities for new markets and deal with spatial impacts and equity implications are needed.

5. Encourage ecosystem resilience

Identify and value the benefits people obtain from ecosystem services to signpost maintenance, enhancement and, where appropriate, restoration of particular ecological structures, functions and services. The evidence base is a critical consideration. Tools have to be effective at incorporating ecosystem services into contemporary valuation and decision-making.

6. Respond to uncertainty in environmental limits

Current understanding of environmental limits is insufficient. Tools supporting adaptive management, coupled with the precautionary approach, are necessary. Embed social learning within tools to improve future responses and understanding. Realise that many decisions are made in quasi-judicial environments with rights of appeal.

7. Operate at and across multiple spatial and temporal scales

Management interventions and tools need to operate at more than one spatial and temporal scale to meet management objectives -the drivers and responses of ecosystems vary spatially and through time.

8. Champion a long-term approach

Factor in long-term horizons to enhance the sustainable flow of ecosystem services, the resilience of productive ecosystems, and the satisfaction of human needs in the long term. Ecosystem processes are characterized by varying temporal scales and lag-effects. This inherently conflicts with the short-term focus of economic and political systems.

9. Manage change to best advantage

Tools should help understand and manage change to achieve good/optimal outcomes. Reflect on change and feed lessons learned into continuous policy and management improvement. Exercise caution with making decisions which lack flexibility.

10. Champion biological diversity

Embed the non-market value of biological diversity in decision-making tools and processes. Biological diversity is critical both for its intrinsic value and because of the key role it plays in ecosystem integrity, resilience and functioning to provide the services upon which we all ultimately depend.

11. Optimise evidence from multiple sources

Secure evidence from all relevant stakeholders across the different sectors of the built and natural environment (local and expert). Maximise transparent, robust decision-making, ensuring that tools can reconcile conflicting knowledge(s) and views.

12. Maximise and maintain stakeholder engagement

Harness and engage the necessary expertise using expert and local knowledge(s) across scales and sectors, bringing differences into formulation of solutions and decisions rather than ‘defending’ expert views once determined and announced. Use deliberative and iterative engagement tools and target both usual and unusual suspects to capture public views and build a meaningful dialogue.