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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #357774

Research Project: Management Technologies for Conservation of Western Rangelands

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Prioritizing land for investments based on short- and long-term land potential and degradation risk: A strategic approach

Author
item Herrick, Jeffrey - Jeff
item Neff, Jason - University Of Colorado
item Quandt, Amy - New Mexico State University
item Salley, Shawn
item Maynard, Jonathan
item Ganguli, A - New Mexico State University
item Bestelmeyer, Brandon

Submitted to: Environmental Science and Policy
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/2/2019
Publication Date: 3/8/2019
Citation: Herrick, J.E., Neff, J., Quandt, A., Salley, S.W., Maynard, J.J., Ganguli, A., Bestelmeyer, B.T. 2019. Prioritizing land for investments based on short- and long-term land potential and degradation risk: A strategic approach. Environmental Science and Policy. 96:52-58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2019.03.001.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2019.03.001

Interpretive Summary: Land investments are typically based on the current and future productive value of the land. Increased global interest in land degradation, and particularly pursuing a goal of land degradation neutrality has driven the development of a number of different frameworks for prioritizing land for investment. In this paper we apply the standard hierarchy of prioritizing land degradation avoidance and reduction over restoration based on the fact that the first two (and particularly avoidance) are likely to have the greatest returns on investment. We then provide some additional guidance for prioritizing these investments based on an understanding of the degradation resistance and resilience of the land, and the risk that it will be converted to a use that is likely to result in degradation. The paper concluds with a brief description of the Land-Potential Knowledge System (LandPKS), a modular mobile app that makes it possible for virtually anyone with a smartphone apply the framework described.

Technical Abstract: The response hierarchy of “Avoid > reduce > reverse” is widely accepted as the best strategy for prioritizing actions designed to address land degradation at hectare to national scales. This hierarchy is based on the assumption that the economic return on investment (ROI) will usually be higher for actions that help avoid degradation than for those required to restore already degraded land. While a useful first step, the hierarchy fails to account for how differences in land potential, defined as its potential to sustainably generate ecosystem services, may affect the ROI of actions at each level of the response hierarchy. The objective of this paper is to present a strategy for improving ROI at the landscape scale and above by systematically applying a more holistic understanding of land potential to the identification and prioritization of land investments. This objective is addressed in three sections. The first section explains how the potential short- and long-term resistance and resilience of the land can be used together with its potential productivity to prioritize actions designed to avoid, reduce and reverse degradation. In the second section we explain how this prioritization can be further optimized based on an understanding of degradation risk as indicated by the land’s potential to generate relatively high short-term profits under management systems that are likely to increase degradation, or result in degradation of restored land. This potential, and land managers’ perception of it, depend on a wide variety of factors including markets, infrastructure, and access to technology. Together these first two sections provide a framework for increasing ROI, while reducing the risk of failure at hectare to national scales. In the final section we briefly describe the Land-Potential Knowledge System (LandPKS), a modular mobile app that makes it possible for virtually anyone with a smartphone to make the land potential determinations necessary to apply the framework described in the first two sections.