Journal Special Issue Commemorates Jornada Range Anniversary
By Ann Perry - The Jornada Experimental Range, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) facility in Las Cruces, N.M., was established in 1912 to address rangeland degradation resulting from widespread livestock overgrazing across the southwestern United States.
To commemorate the research facility's 100th anniversary, the editors of the scientific journal Rangeland Ecology and Management will publish a special issue addressing current challenges and opportunities in rangeland research. A total of 56 scientists from around the world—including six ARS researchers in Las Cruces—contributed to the 14 papers published in this issue.
When scientists began working at the Jornada Experimental Range in 1912, their studies focused on the sustainable production of food and fiber in the Southwest. This included research on minimizing livestock losses during drought, maximizing sustainable forage use, determining optimal livestock carrying capacity for arid grasslands, and managing livestock distribution.
Now, 21st-century ranchers and scientists face a new set of challenges, according to ARS rangeland ecologist Brandon Bestelmeyer. Global change processes—including the effects of old and new land uses, invasive species, and the changing climate—have substantially altered rangeland landscapes.
To respond successfully to the challenges these changes bring, scientists will need to collaborate with land managers to conduct research at increasingly larger scales and learn how to sustain increasingly diverse ecosystems, according to Bestelmeyer. These studies include describing the ecological potential of different soils and regions, managing ecosystems in transition, sustaining native plant and animal communities, protecting soil health and water supplies, and adapting to climate changes linked to rising global temperatures and other weather extremes.
The special issue of the journal discusses efforts by rangeland professionals to develop a collaborative, place-based and knowledge-rich approach known as "resilience-based management." Resilience-based management joins ranchers, farmers and scientists in efforts to identify and use site-specific characteristics to guide the selection of appropriate management strategies and new technologies for different geographic areas.
Such right-sized management can help land managers across the western United States and around the world to develop strategies that sustain livestock production, biodiversity and other rangeland services in the face of increasing rates of land change and demands from expanding human populations.
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) chief intramural scientific research agency, and this work supports the USDA priorities of responding to climate change and promoting international food security.
The November 2012 special issue of "Rangeland Ecology and Management" has published papers discussing the next "big issues" confronting the science in support of land management in the 21st century. This issue, sponsored by the Jornada, commemorates the 100th anniversary of research based at our experimental range. However, the issue is not a retrospective of past research accomplishments, but a contemporary discussion of the topics and contentious issues that face land management in the decades ahead. The issue was led and assembled by Jornada scientists, but represents a broad range of scientific perspectives.
Below are some of the abstracts from the special issue available on-line at http://www.srmjournals.org/toc/rama/65/6.
Abstracts from Special Issue Manuscripts
'The Range Problem' After a Century of Rangeland Science: New Research Themes for Altered Landscapes
Nathan Sayre, William deBuys, Brandon Bestelmeyer, and Kris Havstad
The rangeland science profession in the United States has its roots in the widespread overgrazing and concurrent severe droughts of the late 19th Century. These drivers contributed to rangeland resource degradation especially in the American Southwest—what E. O. Wooton (1908) called "The Range Problem." Although logical for the time, the scientific activities and resulting policies that arose out of this catastrophe were based on reductionist experimentation and productionist emphases on food and fiber. After a century of science and policy there are two additional perspectives that shape our vision for the emphases of the future. First, rangeland landscapes are extremely heterogeneous; general principles derived from scientific experimentation cannot be easily, or generally, applied without adjusting to the distinct societal and ecological characteristics of a location. Second, rangeland management occurs at spatial scales considerably larger than those that have typically been addressed in range science. Scaling up science results is not a simple, additive process. The leading features of the emerging science are (1) research at landscape scales and (2) over longer time spans, that (3) approaches conservation and management practices as treatments requiring scientific evaluation, (4) incorporates local knowledge, (5) is explicitly applied in nature, and (6) is transparent in its practice. We strongly argue for a science that supports resource management by testing hypotheses relevant to actual conservation practices and iteratively applying its findings in partnership with managers in an ongoing, adaptive fashion.
The Elusive Promise of Social-Ecological Approaches to Rangeland Management
Resilience-based frameworks for social-ecological systems (SES) are prominent in contemporary scientific literatures, but critics suggest these approaches may promise more than they deliver. A fundamental premise underlying the SES approach is that, due to the scope of human activities worldwide, we cannot separate ecological and human elements of nature when tackling our biggest challenges. Proponents argue that managers should not seek optimal solutions, but instead build capacity to adapt and transform systems to thrive within unpredicted or novel ecological states. If the range profession is to take advantage of resilience ideas, we need better tools and concepts for understanding interconnected systems. SES research and management strategies will pose some practical difficulties, most notably finding ways to bridge differences between the methods of social and natural sciences. Also needed are institutions that involve scientists, managers and stakeholders in analysis and informed governance, thereby addressing a key tenet of "resilience thinking" while accounting for the "wicked" nature of problems that, like many facing rangeland managers today, do not have a single best solution but only more or less feasible responses. In hopes of guiding managers toward more feasible options, I offer a model of rangeland socio-ecological systems describing how management choices are influenced by, and may affect, human and natural systems at local and regional-to-global scales through both top-down and bottom-up processes.
Increasing Shrub Use by Livestock in a World With Less Grass
Rick E. Estell, Kris M. Havstad, Andres F. Cibils, Ed L. Fredrickson, Dean M. Anderson, Scott Schrader, and Darren K. James
Much of the world's rangelands are dominated by woody species. Competing land uses and continued encroachment of woody species into non-woody dominated rangelands have reduced grasslands in many parts of the world. Land use conversions to fuel and feed global populations, especially for increasing numbers of middle class people seeking broader, meat-based diets, will certainly continue. Halting and/or reversing further encroachment of woody species into grasslands is slow, expensive, and in some cases, not possible. Yet, global livestock numbers continue to increase to meet the growing demand for red meat and other livestock products. How do we reconcile a world with less grass and the concurrent increased demand for forages to feed livestock? Strategies and mechanisms are needed to safely enhance shrub use by ruminants in order to capitalize on a presently underutilized forage resource. A number of approaches are presently available (e.g., choosing appropriate species and breeds, providing dietary supplements and additives, behavior modification, genetic selection) to increase shrub consumption, and new technologies such as biochemical markers of shrub intake need to continue to be identified and developed. Such strategies could provide important means for rural communities to adapt to changing land cover and climate.
How To Be General, Yet Specific: The Conundrum of Rangeland Science in the 21st Century
Debra Peters, Jayne Belnap, John Ludwig, Scott L. Collins, Jose Paruelo, M. Timm Hoffman, and Kris M. Havstad
A critical challenge for range scientists is to provide input to management decisions for land units where little or no data exist. The disciplines of range science, basic ecology, and global ecology use different perspectives and approaches with different levels of detail to extrapolate information and understanding from well-studied locations to other land units. However, these traditional approaches are expected to be insufficient in the future as both human and climatic drivers change in magnitude and direction, spatial heterogeneity in land cover and its use increases, and rangelands become increasingly connected at local to global scales by flows of materials, people, and information. Here we argue that to overcome limitations of each individual discipline, and to effectively address future rangeland problems, scientists will need to successfully integrate these disciplines in novel ways. The objectives of this paper are: (1) to describe the background, historical development, and limitations of current approaches, (2) to describe an integrated approach that takes advantage of the strengths and minimizes the weaknesses of each individual approach, and (3) to discuss the challenges and implications of this integrated approach to the future of range science when climate and human drivers are non-stationary. This integration will be critical for applying range science to the management of specific land units, and will contribute to and benefit from the development of general ecological principles as well as to addressing problems facing society at regional, continental, and global scales.
Conservation of Pattern and Process: Developing an Alternative Paradigm of Rangeland Management
Samuel D. Fuhlendorf, David M. Engle, R Dwayne Elmore, Ryan F. Limb, and Terrence G. Bidwell
This paper examines the question of how well the rangeland management profession has served conservation of patterns and processes that support multiple ecosystem services. We examine the paradigms under which rangeland management operates, and argue that our profession developed under the utilitarian paradigm with the primary goals of sustainable forage for livestock production. While optimization of multiple rangeland products and services has always been a consideration, a comprehensive set of principles have not be been developed to advance this concept. We argue that fire and grazing, often viewed as mere tools used for production goals, should rather be viewed as essential ecosystem processes. Rangeland management continues to operate under the utilitarian paradigm appropriate to societal values of the 20th Century and by and large has failed to provide management guidance to reverse degradation of several highly valued ecosystem services. We support this argument with evidence that biodiversity, has declined on rangelands in the past half-century and much of this decline is due to management goals which favor a narrow suite of species. The full suite of ecosystem services valued by society will only benefit by management for heterogeneity, which implies there is no one goal for management and landscape level planning is crucial. Explicitly incorporating heterogeneity into state-and-transition models is an important advancement not yet achieved by our profession. We present new principles for rangeland management formed on the basis of conservation of pattern and process. While recognizing that many rangelands have significant deviations from historic plant communities and disturbance regimes, we suggest that management for conservation of pattern and process should focus on fire and grazing to the extent possible to promote a shifting mosaic across large landscapes that include patches that are highly variable in the amount of disturbance rather than the current goal of uniform moderate disturbance.
Introduced and Invasive Species in Novel Rangeland Ecosystems: Friends or Foes?
Jayne Belnap, John A. Ludwig, Bradford P. Wilcox, Julio L. Betancourt, W. Richard J. Dean, Benjamin D. Hoffmann, and Sue J. Milton
Globally, new combinations of introduced and native plant and animal species have changed rangelands into novel ecosystems. Whereas many rangeland stakeholders (people who use or have an interest in rangelands) view intentional species introductions to improve forage and control erosion as beneficial, others focus on unintended costs, such as increased fire risk, loss of rangeland biodiversity, and threats to conservation efforts, specifically in nature reserves and parks. These conflicting views challenge all rangeland stakeholders, especially those making decisions on how to best manage novel ecosystems. To formulate a conceptual framework for decision making, we examined a wide range of novel ecosystems, created by intentional and unintentional introductions of non-native species and land-use facilitated spread of native ones. This framework simply divides decision making into two types: 1) straightforward-certain, and 2) complex-uncertain. We argue that management decisions to retain novel ecosystems are certain when goods and services provided by the system far outweigh the costs of restoration, for example in the case of intensively-managed Cenchrus pastures. Decisions to return novel ecosystems to natural systems are also certain when the value of the system is low and restoration is easy and inexpensive as in the case of biocontrol of Opuntia infestations. In contrast, decisions whether to retain or restore novel ecosystems become complex and uncertain in cases where benefits are low and costs of control are high as, for example, in the case of stopping the expansion of Prosopis and Juniperus into semiarid rangelands. Decisions to retain or restore novel ecosystems are also complex and uncertain when, for example, non-native Eucalyptus trees expand along natural streams, negatively affecting biodiversity, but also providing timber and honey. When decision-making is complex and uncertain, we suggest that rangeland managers utilize cost-benefit analyses and hold stakeholder workshops to resolve conflicts.
Range Education in the 21st Century: Striking the Balance to Maintain a Relevant Profession
Laurie B. Abbott, Karen L. Launchbaugh, and Susan Edinger-Marshall
Range science education programs strive to keep pace with the changing needs of the range profession, and to ensure that range graduates are knowledgeable, skilled and able to address contemporary, complex problems unique to rangelands. Today, range education programs face many challenges in our ability to meet the demands and needs of our profession and society. First, our capacity to meet the demands for range science graduates has been diminished by: 1) elimination or restructuring of academic rangeland science programs, 2) reduced numbers of range-trained faculty teaching rangeland courses, and 3) limited public awareness of degrees and careers in rangeland science and management. Second, range education programs are challenged to strike a balance between retaining traditional basics and modernizing curriculum to include contemporary concepts and technologies. Third, range science graduates need to understand the current social, political, and economic context of resource management, including global change issues which are of paramount concern to society. We propose multiple approaches to meet these challenges: 1) perform needs assessments with diverse stakeholders to ensure that range education programs are relevant to society's needs and address the future of the profession; 2) find innovative approaches to strike the educational balance between fundamental concepts, practical field experiences, and mastery of technical and interpersonal skills; 3) collaborate across institutional boundaries to share educational resources and incorporate course formats that meet the diverse needs of today's students; 4) examine and align professional qualifications, educational standards and curriculum by defining learning outcomes and core competencies needed by well-trained range professionals; and 5) communicate the unique features of the rangeland profession that solidify its position among the disciplinary pillars of natural resource science and management.
Opportunities for Increasing Utility of Models for Rangeland Management
Justin Dean Derner, David Augustine, James C. Ascough II, and Lajpat Ahuja
A large number of empirical and mechanistic simulation models and decision support tools have been produced for rangelands. Collectively, these models have considerably increased our fundamental knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of ecosystem functions, processes and structure. We explore three areas where models for rangeland management are often challenging for land managers and enterprise-level decision making: 1) coping with spatiotemporal and climatic variability in scenario forecasting, risk assessments and implementing adaptive management, 2) addressing outputs of multiple ecosystem goods and services, and whether these are synergistic or competing, and 3) integrating experimental and experiential knowledge and observations into decision making. Increasing the utility of models for rangeland management remains a key frontier and a major research need for the modeling community, and will be achieved less by further technical advances and model complexity and more by the use of existing topo-edaphic databases, the capacity to readily incorporate new experimental and experiential knowledge, and use of frameworks that facilitate outcome based, adaptive decision making at the enterprise level with associated economic considerations. Opportunities exist for increasing the utility of models for decision making and adaptive rangeland management through better matching model complexity with enterprise level, decision making goals. This could be accomplished by incorporating a fundamental understanding of herbivory, fire and spatiotemporal interactions with weather patterns to affect multiple ecosystem functions. Most importantly, effective models would allow land managers in a changing and variable climate to: 1) evaluate tradeoffs in producing multiple goods and services, 2) spatially optimize the application of conservation practices (comparing costs and benefits accrued across different time scales), and 3) incorporate manager capacity including experience, skills and labor input.
Is Proactive Adaptation to Climate Change Necessary in Grazed Rangelands?
Andrew J. Ash, Philip Thornton, Chris Stokes, and Chuluun Togtohyn
In this paper we test the notion that adaptation to climate change in grazed rangelands requires little more effort than current approaches to risk management because the inherent climate variability that characterises rangelands provides a management environment that is pre-adapted to climate change. We also examine the alternative hypothesis that rangeland ecosystems and the people they support are highly vulnerable to climate change. Past climate is likely to become an increasingly poor predictor of the future so there is a risk in relying on adaptation approaches developed solely in response to existing variability. We find incremental, autonomous adaptation will be sufficient to deal with most of the challenges provided by the gradual expression of climate change in the next decade or two. However, projections of greater climate change in the future means that the responses required are qualitatively as well as quantitatively different and are beyond the existing suite of adaptation strategies and coping range. The proactive adaptation responses required go well beyond incremental on-farm or local actions. New policies will be needed to deal with transformative changes associated with land tenure issues and challenges of some displacement and migration of people in vulnerable parts of rangelands. Even where appropriate adaptation actions can be framed, issues of when to act and how much to act in a proactive way remain a challenge for research, management and policy. Whether incremental or transformational, a diversity of adaptation options will be required in different rangeland regions to enhance social and ecological resilience.
Rangeland Degradation, Poverty and Conflict: How Can Rangeland Scientists Contribute to Effective Responses and Solutions?
Donald Bedunah and Jay Peter Angerer
In many developing countries where rangelands are a dominant land type and critically important in livelihoods of a significant portion of the population, severe rangeland degradation and/or conflicts over rangeland use can create significant social, economic, and environmental problems. In this paper, we review rangeland degradation in the developing world, its impacts and causes, discuss problems in applying rangeland science to improve rangeland conditions, discuss the role of rangeland scientists, and our approach for enhancing rangeland science in international development. We suggest range scientists can provide valuable input and direction on issues of rangeland degradation (including state changes and impacts on ecosystem goods and services), provide guidance in methods and realistic opportunities for rangeland improvement to local users, government, and development organizations, and work to provide pastoralists with adaptive management in variable ecosystems. Conflict and poverty can create situations where a long-term goal of sustainable rangeland use is overwhelmed by short-term needs of safety and food security; however, providing science and training on sustainable management can make a difference where conflicts are not too severe and can help promote societal stability. Negative perceptions about aid are widespread, but the needs for improved conditions associated with multiple values of rangelands, and the needs of people utilizing these areas, are great. Conducting planning and projects with transparency and accountability will help promote more inclusive participation and successful projects. To be effective, a project needs to consider the needs of the people utilizing the project area, but also provide to these communities information on values of the rangelands to other stakeholders (ecosystem services). Sustainable projects will require accountability and enhance self-reliance to allow community empowerment and adaptability to changes.
Revolutionary Land Use Change in the 21st Century: Is (Rangeland) Science Relevant?
Jeff E. Herrick, Joel R. Brown, Brandon T. Bestelmeyer, Susan S. Andrews, German Baldi, Jonathan Davies, Michael C. Duniway, Kris M. Havstad, Jason Karl, Douglas L. Karlen, Debra P.C. Peters, Johnathan N. Quinton, Corinna Riginos, Patrick L. Shaver, Diego Steinaker, and Steven Twomlow
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.