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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Disentangling Complex Landscapes: New Insights into Arid and Semiarid System Dynamics

Authors
item Peters, Debra
item Bestelmeyer, Brandon
item Herrick, Jeffrey
item Frederickson, Eddie
item Monger, H. Curtis - NEW MEXICO STATE UNIV
item Havstad, Kris

Submitted to: Bioscience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 15, 2006
Publication Date: June 1, 2006
Citation: Peters, D.P.C., Bestelmeyer, B.T., Herrick, J.E., Fredrickson, E.L., Monger, H.C., Havstad, K.M. 2006. Disentangling complex landscapes: New insights into arid and semiarid system dynamics. BioScience. 56:491-501.

Interpretive Summary: Desertification, the broad-scale conversion of grasslands to shrublands, has occurred throughout arid and semiarid regions of the world over the past several centuries. Alternative and controversial hypotheses have been proposed to explain these dynamics. We present a new research framework that includes five interacting elements to explain desertification dynamics: (1) historical legacies, environmental driving variables, (3) a soil-geomorphic template, (4) horizontal and vertical transport vectors, and (5) redistribution of resources within and among spatial units. We offer a six-step operational approach that is applicable to many landscapes, and illustrate its utility for understanding present-day landscape organization, forecasting future dynamics, and making effective management decisions.

Technical Abstract: Although desertification is a global phenomenon and numerous studies have provided information on dynamics at specific sites, spatial and temporal variation in response to desertification have led to alternative, and often controversial, hypotheses about the key factors that determine these dynamics. We present a new research framework that includes five interacting elements to explain these dynamics: (1) historical legacies, environmental driving variables, (3) a soil-geomorphic template, (4) horizontal and vertical transport vectors, and (5) redistribution of resources within and among spatial units. We offer a six-step operational approach that is applicable to many landscapes, and illustrate its utility for understanding present-day landscape organization, forecasting future dynamics, and making effective management decisions.

Last Modified: 8/30/2014
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