Most conceptual discussions of biological diversity consider genetic-level, species-level or ecosystem-level approaches to biological diversity. However, few integrate all three levels into a comprehensive conservation and management approach. In addition, conceptual discussions often
fail to consider the spatial and temporal variability of the system, unique attributes of a water environment and a scale for those factors. Unfortunately, considerations of marine biodiversity are often limited to descriptive levels of species or habitat richness. For the Indian River Lagoon
and most coastal estuaries, information at each level of the biodiversity concept is lacking. The complex processes that influence and sustain biological diversity are poorly understood and the functional importance of the upland-wetland-estuary linkage is often overlooked. The functional
boundaries of the Indian River Lagoon include a complex association of terrestrial, wetland, and estuarine systems which combine to form a diverse landscape mosaic. Land-based and estuarine-based characteristics must be considered as interdependent components of this diverse ecosystem. Land-based
anthropogenic impacts exert significant influences on IRL water quality, estuarine natural communities and biological diversity of the Indian River Lagoon. Land acquisition is an important non-regulatory tool that can be used to protect biological diversity in coastal estuaries. Well planned
local land acquisition programs can compliment and enhance state and federal conservation initiatives. Land acquisition programs that consider connectivity and functional integrity among upland, wetland and estuarine natural communities provide an immediate opportunity to protect, enhance
and restore natural estuarine functions by establishing or expanding a protected area network. Land acquisition is an economically feasible and ecologically sound approach to begin biodiversity protection in the Indian River Lagoon. This paper focuses on the Environmentally Endangered Lands
Program, Brevard County, Florida; an innovative local land acquisition program that provides a model local program for biological diversity protection in a coastal estuary.
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