Submitted to: New Mexico Journal of Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 19, 1999
Publication Date: November 1, 1999
Citation: HAVSTAD, K.M. IMPROVING SUSTAINABILITY OF ARID RANGELANDS. NEW MEXICO JOURNAL OF SCIENCE. 1999. V. 39. P. 174-197. Interpretive Summary: Arid regions are areas that receive less than 10 inches of precipitation annually on a long-term average. In New Mexico, 10% of the land is classified as arid, but this arid region supports 77% of the state's population and 30% of its agricultural lands. Most of this region though, is classified as rangeland. The condition of these lands is often shaped by interactions between management practices and environmental stresses, especially prolonged droughts. Improving the sustainability of these lands is reliant upon four management criteria: 1) understanding basic ecological principles, 2) knowing local environments and their natural variations, 3) monitoring in a regular fashion, and 4) being flexible in the management of these rangelands. Applying these criteria will require collaborations among land owners, stewards, management agencies, the scientific community, and the general public.
Technical Abstract: Deserts are climatically defined and arid regions within deserts are usually identified using a combination of average precipitation, evaporation, and temperature features. More generally though, arid regions are defined as areas receiving less than 250 mm of annual precipitation on a long-term average. In New Mexico, 10% of the state is classified as arid, ,but this region supports 77% of its population and nearly 30% of its agricultural lands. However, the arid zone is classified primarily as rangeland. Improving the sustainability of these arid rangelands will require employing technologies that exploit or augment natural processes and that are effective at relatively small, affordable spatial scales. Many of these technologies have been identified but the need exists to revise their application to comply with these two requirements. Implementing adaptive management within this arid zone will require flexibility, active collaborations among users, stewards and public interests, and increased efforts in monitoring effects of management on ecological conditions of arid lands.