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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Range Management Research

Title: Climate change and rangelands: Responding rationally to uncertainty

item Brown, Joel
item Thorpe, Jim

Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/30/2008
Publication Date: 6/30/2008
Citation: Brown, J.R., Thorpe, J. 2008. Climate change and rangelands: Responding rationally to uncertainty. Rangelands. 30(3):3-6.

Interpretive Summary: The history of rangeland management is one of close coupling with the environment and success or failure is usually driven by how well humans can alter management in response to changes in the environment. Climate change and climate variability have the potential to greatly affect rangelands around the world. Responding to climate change may be in the form of mitigation or adaptation. Mitigation refers to how rangelands can be managed to reduce the effects of human activity on climate through carbon sequestration. Sequestration is the increased storage of carbon in the soil and vegetation through the management of naturally occurring processes; photosynthesis, humification, and aggregation. Adaptation, on the other hand, assumes that climate change will occur and focuses primarily on how rangeland management can change to reduce the impact of those changes. Because of limitations on productivity by low and erratic rainfall, the focus on rangelands should be adaptation.

Technical Abstract: Rangelands constitute a substantial portion of the earth’s surface and contribute a wide variety of products and services to human well being. Global climate change will have an inordinate impact on rangelands because the productivity of grass and shrub dominated ecosystems is so closely linked to the short term expression of climate, weather. In general, most rangeland ecosystems and human activities associated with them are forecast to experience increasingly erratic precipitation and temperature patterns in the short and mid term future (20-100 years). Other aspects of global change, such as CO2 fertilization, invasive species and changes in land use, will also have significant effects on the ability of rangelands to meet human needs and desires.

Last Modified: 06/22/2017
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