Conceptual Ecological Models
Effective synthesis & communication of complex scientific & technical information is essential for the success of coastal ecosystem restoration in Louisiana.
Conceptual ecological models (CEMs) articulate the known relationships between ecosystem restoration activities, coastal protection strategies & the future trajectory of coastal resources. CEMs are seen as an essential component in any major ecosystem restoration effort, & they have proven to be valuable tools for planning & implementation of other large-scale restoration efforts, including the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan in South Florida, & for CALFED in northern California.
The process of developing CEMs is much more than drawing diagrams that describe an ecological system. CEMs provide a framework for assembling & disseminating scientific & technical information needed to support ecosystem management. The ecological services road map provided by CEMs can then be used for conflict resolution & to help define what stakeholders stand to gain or lose as decisions are made during the restoration process.
The CLEAR Program has used a dual approach in developing CEMs - science communication newsletters & box-arrow conceptual models.
Science communication-based CEMs rely primarily on a visually stimulating, diagramatic approach. With help from the Integration & Application Network (IAN), & input from the local science community, the CLEAR Program developed three newsletters, rich in conceptual diagrams. An example of this science communication methodoloy is shown directly below, & the three newsletters can be viewed or downloaded at the bottom of the page.
Box-Arrow Conceptual Ecological Models
The CLEAR Program has also organized the development of more 'technical' CEMs, or box - arrow CEMs. Through a series of workshops, the CLEAR Program helped generate a series of CEM submodels (delta building, wetland productivity, residence time, aquatic primary productivity, & upper trophic level) that focus on the knowns & unknowns associated with the introduction of a river diversion into a shallow estuarine basin in coastal Louisiana. Each submodel diagram is accompanied by a descriptive narrative & associated references.
The delta building & wetland productivity submodel diagrams have been converted to interactive applications, shown below. Each submodel is presented in the CLEAR Vol IV chapter Conceptual Ecological Model for River Diversions into Barataria Basin, Louisiana (accessible at the bottom of this page); full authorship & acknowledements for each submodel are presented in the report.
For more information on Conceptual Ecological Models, view these publications:Conceptual Ecological Model for River Diversions into Barataria Basin, Louisiana
Conceptual Ecological Models Executive Summary
Restore vs. Retreat: Securing ecosystem services provided by coastal Louisiana
Enhancing Landscape Integrity in Coastal Louisiana: Water, Sediment & Ecosystems
Reducing flood damage in coastal Louisiana: Communities, culture & commerce