Located on the Caribbean Coast in the State of Quintana Roo, the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve (RBSK) is one of Mexico's largest protected areas. The ecosystems of Sian Ka'an and the Greater Everglades are similar in many respects. The natural systems of Quintana Roo, Mexico and Florida's Greater Everglades and adjacent coastal ecosystems support economically important fisheries and tourism industries. Both systems are threatened by growing human populations and associated development, as well as other stressors on the ecosystem, including unsustainable uses, agricultural and urban development, and increased extraction of natural resources. Valuable lessons in ecosystem ecology and management are being learned from the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Initiative (SFERI) that can and should be applied to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. Conceptual ecological models have been used in Greater Everglades ecosystems to communicate major issues in restoration and to identify attributes and biological indicators for evaluating alternative restoration plans and for designing monitoring and assessment programs. The conceptual ecological model for RBSK is a conservation model rather than a restoration model; it does not explain effects that have already occurred but, rather, hypothesizes effects that, based on experience, are likely to occur. Stressors in the Sian Ka'an Conceptual Ecological Model are driven by local and national societal needs and not natural drivers. Attributes identified were similar to those in Greater Everglades systems and included hydrology and water quality, upland, wetland and coastal fauna, and vegetation patterns. Visual aesthetics also were identified as significant. Linkages between stressors and attributes are being used to design and communicate science and management needs for the Reserve.
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Vol. 25 • No. 4