Vellidis, G., M.C. Smith, S.G. Leibowitz, W.B. Ainslie, B.A. Pruit. 2003. Prioritizing wetland restoration for sediment yield reduction: A conceptual model. Environmental Management 31(2): 301-312. WED-02-041
In a climate of limited resources, it is often necessary to prioritize restoration efforts geographically. The synoptic approach is an ecologically based tool for geographic prioritization of wetland protection and restoration efforts. The approach was specifically designed to incorporate best professional judgment in cases where information and resources are otherwise limited. Synoptic assessments calculate indices for functional criteria in subunits (watersheds, counties, etc.) of a region and then rank the subunits. Ranks can be visualized in region-scale maps which enable managers to identify areas where efforts optimize functional performance on a regional scale. In this paper, we develop a conceptual model for prioritizing watersheds whose wetlands can be restored to reduce total sediment yield at the watershed outlet. The conceptual model is designed to rank watersheds but not individual wetlands within a watershed. The synoptic approach is valid for applying the sediment yield reduction model because there is high demand for prioritizing disturbed wetlands for restoration, but there is limited, quantitative, accurate information available with which to make decisions. Furthermore, the cost of creating a comprehensive database is prohibitively high. Finally, because the model will be used for planning purposes, and, specifically, for prioritizing based on multiple decisions rather than optimizing a single decision, the consequence of prioritization errors is low. Model results cannot be treated as scientific findings. The conclusions of an assessment are based on judgment, but this judgment is guided by scientific principles and a general understanding of relevant ecological processes. The conceptual model was developed as the first step towards prioritizing of wetland restoration for sediment yield reduction in US EPA Region 4.