Tools are primarily used to affect the four ecosystem processes common to all terrestrial ecosystems: the water cycle; the mineral cycle; plant and animal succession; and energy flow. Each tool may have direct and indirect effects on one or all of the ecosystem processes.
The manager or team must consider fully the consequences of applying a particular tool prior to selecting it. For example:
prescribed burning may have a very positive effect on energy flow by reducing stagnation in a plant community and stimulating vigorous new growth Conversely, the water cycle may be damaged by the fire if too much bare ground is exposed as litter is burned away.
an herbicide may be directed at a target species such as Canada thistle without recognizing that other desirable broadleaf plants will also be killed, with a subsequent decrease in plant species diversity (plant succession and energy flow).
an in-stream structure may provide excellent trout cover but negatively affect downstream bank stability (water cycle).
Remember: The overall or terminal impacts of any tool must be anticipated prior to its implementation.