Conceptual ecological models, as used in the Everglades restoration program, are non-quantitative planning tools that identify the major anthropogenic drivers and stressors on natural systems, the ecological effects of these stressors, and the best biological attributes or indicators of these ecological responses. Conceptual ecological models can be used with any ecological restoration and conservation program and can become the primary communication, planning, and assessment link among scientists and policy-makers. A set of conceptual ecological models has been developed for South Florida restoration as a framework for supporting integration of science and policy and are key components of an Adaptive Management Program being developed for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Other large-scale restoration programs also use conceptual ecological models. This special edition of Wetlands presents 11 South Florida regional models, one total system model for South Florida, and one international regional model. This paper provides an overview of these models and defines conceptual ecological model components. It also provides a brief history of South Florida's natural systems and summarizes components common to many of the regional models.
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Vol. 25 • No. 4