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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #274223

Title: Revolutionary land use change in the 21st century: Is (rangeland) science relevant?

item Herrick, Jeffrey - Jeff
item BROWN, JOEL - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item Bestelmeyer, Brandon
item ANDREWS, SUSAN - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item BALDI, GERMAN - National University Of San Luis
item DUNIWAY, MICHAEL - Us Geological Survey (USGS)
item Havstad, Kris
item Karl, Jason
item Karlen, Douglas
item Peters, Debra
item QUINTON, JOHNATHAN - Lancaster University
item RIGINOS, CORINNA - Princeton University
item SHAVER, PATRICK - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item TWOMLOW, STEVEN - International Crops Research Institute For The Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/21/2012
Publication Date: 11/1/2012
Citation: Herrick, J.E., Brown, J., Bestelmeyer, B.T., Andrews, S., Baldi, G., Duniway, M., Havstad, K.M., Karl, J.W., Karlen, D.L., Peters, D.C., Quinton, J.N., Riginos, C., Shaver, P.L., Twomlow, S. 2012. Revolutionary land use change in the 21st century: Is (rangeland) science relevant? Rangeland Ecology and Management. 65:590-598.

Interpretive Summary: The earth will need to support 9 billion people by the year 2050. Crop production will need to increase on existing lands and will be expanded onto other lands, including many rangelands. In addition to weather and soil limitations to production, many of these lands are less resilient to degradation. As these lands are converted, the risk of relatively irreversible losses in land potential will increase. Rangeland scientists have traditionally focused only on those lands that are currently managed as rangelands. In this paper, we argue that rangeland scientists must increasingly work with other disciplines to ensure that current rangelands are sustainably managed, regardless of land cover and use. The paper concludes with a discussion of four strategies to increase the relevance of rangeland science to global land management.

Technical Abstract: Rapidly increasing demand for food, fiber and fuel together with new technologies and the mobility of global capital are driving revolutionary changes in land use throughout the world. Efforts to increase land productivity include conversion of millions of hectares of rangelands to crop production, including many marginal lands with low resistance and resilience to degradation. Sustaining the productivity of these lands requires careful land use planning and innovative management systems. Historically, this responsibility has been left to agronomists and others with expertise in crop production. In this paper, we argue that the revolutionary land use changes necessary to support national and global food security potentially make rangeland science more relevant now than ever. Maintaining and increasing relevance will require a revolutionary change in range science from a discipline that focuses on a particular land use or land cover to one that addresses the challenge of managing all lands that, at one time, were considered to be marginal for crop production. We propose four strategies to increase the relevance of rangeland science to global land management: (1) expand our awareness and understanding of local to global economic, social, and technological trends in order to anticipate and identify drivers and patterns of conversion, (2) emphasize empirical studies and modeling that anticipate the biophysical (ecosystem services) and societal consequences of large-scale changes in land cover and use, (3) significantly increase communication and collaboration with the disciplines and sectors of society currently responsible for managing the new land uses, and (4) develop and adopt a dynamic and flexible resilience-based land classification system and data-supported conceptual models (e.g., State and Transition models) that represent (a) all lands, irrespective of use and (b) the consequences of land conversion to various uses, instead of changes in state or condition that are focused on a single land use.