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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Rangeland Resources & Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #362327

Research Project: Improved Management to Balance Production and Conservation in Great Plains Rangelands

Location: Rangeland Resources & Systems Research

Title: Traversing the wasteland: A framework for assessing ecological threats to drylands

item Hoover, David
item Bestelmeyer, Brandon
item GRIMM, NANCY - Arizona State University
item HUXMAN, TRAVIS - University Of California
item REED, SASHA - Us Geological Survey (USGS)
item SALA, OSVALDO - Arizona State University
item SEASTEDT, TIMOTHY - University Of Colorado
item Wilmer, Hailey
item FERRENBERG, SCOTT - New Mexico State University

Submitted to: Bioscience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/5/2019
Publication Date: 12/18/2019
Citation: Hoover, D.L., Bestelmeyer, B.T., Grimm, N., Huxman, T., Reed, S., Sala, O., Seastedt, T., Wilmer, H.N., Ferrenberg, S. 2019. Traversing the wasteland: A framework for assessing ecological threats to drylands. Bioscience. 70(1):35-47.

Interpretive Summary: Drylands are home to over two billion people, provide critical ecosystems services, and cover almost half of the land are of the world. Like many ecosystems, are threatened by a changing world, but these systems are perhaps more vulnerable because many are close to tipping points. In this paper, we review the proximate and ultimate threats to dryland ecosystems from an ecological perspective. Proximate threats include, climate change, invasive species, and land use change, while ultimate threats consist of the vulnerability of these ecosystems and the perception that drylands are wastelands. Through this framework, we aim to improve our understanding of the threats that will shape the future of these important ecosystem and provide some recommendations for how to address these issues.

Technical Abstract: Drylands cover 41% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface, play a critical role in global ecosystem functioning, and are home to over two billion people. Like other biomes, drylands face increasing pressure from global change, but many of these ecosystems are close to tipping points, which, if crossed, can lead to abrupt transitions and persistent degraded states. Their limited yet variable precipitation, low soil fertility, and low productivity have given rise to a perception that drylands are ‘wastelands’, needing societal intervention to ‘bring value’. Negative perceptions of drylands synergistically combine with conflicting socio-cultural values regarding what constitutes a threat to these ecosystems. Here, we propose a framework for assessing threats to dryland ecosystems and suggest we must also combat the negative perceptions of drylands in order to preserve the ecosystem services that they offer.