, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 171-182
Date: 09 Jun 2007

Conceptual Models as Hypotheses in Monitoring Urban Landscapes

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Many problems and challenges of ecosystem management currently are driven by the rapid pace and spatial extent of landscape change. Parks and reserves within areas of high human population density are especially challenged to meet the recreational needs of local populations and to preserve valued environmental resources. The complex problem of managing multiple objectives and multiple resources requires an enormous quantity of information, and conceptual models have been proposed as tools for organizing and interpreting this information. Academics generally prefer a bottom-up approach to model construction that emphasizes ecologic theory and process, whereas managers often use a top-down approach that takes advantage of existing information to address more pragmatic objectives. The authors propose a formal process for developing, applying, and testing conceptual models to be used in landscape monitoring that reconciles these seemingly opposing perspectives. The four-step process embraces the role of hypothesis testing in the development of models and evaluation of their utility. An example application of the process to a network of national parks in and around Washington, DC illustrates the ability of the approach to systematically identify monitoring data that would both advance ecologic theory and inform management decisions.