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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #190938

Title: Ecohydrological feedbacks and linkages associated with land degradation: A case study from Mexico

item Herrick, Jeffrey - Jeff

Submitted to: Hydrological Processes
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/12/2005
Publication Date: 2/6/2006
Citation: Huber-Sanwald, E., Maestre, F., Herrick, J.E., Reynolds, J. 2006. Ecohydrological feedbacks and linkages associated with land degradation: A case study from Mexico. Hydrological Processes. 20:3395-3411.

Interpretive Summary: No interpretive summary required.

Technical Abstract: Desertification is a major environmental problem of global drylands. The human activities that contribute to land degradation also negatively impact hydrology, which can lead to crises in water resources. Whereas this is commonplace in the arid and semiarid regions of the globe, including the Americas, these problems are especially acute in Mexico. In this paper, we report on findings from a workshop convened by the ARIDnet network on land degradation in La Amapola, a small rural community in the Central Plateau of Mexico. Using the village of La Amapola as a model ‘test case’, we focused on the links between desertification and the hydrological cycle. Although there is a paucity of data for this isolated village, La Amapola served as an excellent case study: it is located within a highly degraded landscape, both socioeconomic and biophysical drivers are currently in force, freshwater is crucial to agrarian livelihoods, and it is similar to many rural communities worldwide facing similar land degradation concerns. Importantly, applying the DDP to La Amapola afforded us an excellent opportunity to develop a research and restoration agenda for the region. Each household in La Amapola is involved in a complex interplay between multiple variables, bounded by biophysical and socioeconomic thresholds. We summarize our findings in a conceptual model that is based on (i) the partitioning of ‘shared water’ between society and nature and (ii) the Dahlem Desertification Paradigm (DDP), the latter of which highlights the numerous connections (direct and indirect) between the biophysical ‘state of the ecosystem’ and the ‘rural livelihoods’ of individuals living there. The DDP consists of various assertions that stress the inseparable interplay of both human and environmental drivers in desertification. In our conceptual model, hydrological functions are shown as crucial elements of both the natural ecosystem (e.g., rainfall, run-off, evaporation) and the socioeconomic system (e.g., drinking water, profit from crop yield, water for sanitation). We demonstrate from the many feedbacks, linkages, and causal pathways between the biophysical and human dimensions that hydrology is a fundamental component of the rural livelihood of rural communities, and thus it is of central importance when evaluating desertification.