The St. Lucie Estuary is one of the largest brackish water bodies on the east coast of Florida, USA and a major tributary to southern Indian River Lagoon. The Indian River Lagoon is a biogeographic transition zone, rich in habitats and species, with the greatest species diversity of any estuary in North America. Habitats and species diversity in the lagoon system are believed to be affected by the decline in water and sediment quality. The health of the system is being affected by water management and land-use development in this rapidly growing area of South Florida. These affects are expressed through the six major stressors identified in this conceptual ecological model. The model diagram and its associated text describe the effects of these stressors on the key ecological attributes of the system and are a way to describe both the well-known linkages and pathways between these stressors and the detrimental impacts they have on the ecology of the system. This model also provides a means to describe some of the uncertainties and associated research that will be needed to fine tune our understanding of some of the more complicated ecological interactions and interdependencies in order to carry out effectively the goals and objectives of Everglades restoration in this system and adaptively manage the restoration into the future.
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Vol. 25 • No. 4