Conceptual models are concise and visually-stimulating illustrations that use symbols or drawings to depict the important features, processes and management challenges in a particular environment, such as coastal waterways. This is accomplished using the most current knowledge or understanding of that particular environment and is presented in a way that is easy to understand. Conceptual models should evolve in tandem with knowledge as it is expands with research developments.
Figure 1. Conceptual diagrams of estuarine vegetation.
Conceptual diagrams are useful because they:
To develop an appropriate set of indicators to monitor an estuary there is a logical process that needs to be followed (see Fig. 1). The first part of the process is to determine what type of estuarine wetland you are monitoring (i.e. its typology). Currently there is no comprehensive typology of Australian estuaries, however, the geomorphic classification presented here is a initial start and is currently the national default typology. Developing a typology allows different types to be recognised, this is an important step to group similar estuaries together, ensuring that 'apples' can be compared with 'apples'. The next step in the process is to produce science models which synthesise the current understanding of each type's key processes, components and functions, thus providing a basis of sound understanding for the development of individual stressor models. These stressor models then allow pressure and condition indicators to be determined that are specific to a particular estuarine type.
Figure 2. Flow chart showing the process needed to determine appropriate indicators for monitoring an estuary.