Submitted to: The Wildlife Society
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: February 20, 2004
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: In the Chihuahuan Desert concern about both the loss of biodiversity and economic productivity centers on the loss of grasslands and their transition to shrublands (i.e., desertification). Decades of research on this process have emphasized relatively fine scales. Although this was a necessary step, alone it is insufficient to explain instances and broader patterns of change. Furthermore, these processes have been only tenuously linked to biodiversity. We describe recent conceptual and empirical approaches to describing the process of transition based on cross-scale interactions between grass-shrub relationships and losses of grass in patches, between-patch connectivity and interactions with climate forcing functions, and landscape to regional-level feedbacks to climate. These processes create nonlinear changes in time and space such that different processes are important at particular times and spatial locations. This notion has important implications for monitoring and management. The variety of dynamics and patterns in vegetation and soils these processes create drive spatial and temporal variation in biodiversity. We discuss ongoing work to link ecosystem models to biodiversity data and to integrate management strategies based on rangeland and wildlife concerns.