Complexity, desertification and livestock production: Dancing with the winds of change

TitleComplexity, desertification and livestock production: Dancing with the winds of change
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsFredrickson E.L., Gonzalez A.L.
Conference NameProceedings of the Universidad Autonoma de Chihuahua Symposium
Date PublishedSeptember 19-21,
Conference LocationChihuahua, Mexico
ARIS Log Number140305
AbstractDuring the last 150 years the Jornada Experimental Range has undergone a transition from desert grasslands to desert scrubland vegetation. This transition is characteristic of desertification, a process occurring in arid and semiarid regions worldwide. While livestock grazing is commonly isolated as the sole driver of desertification in the northern Chihuahuan Desert, it appears that actual causes are complex and difficult to untangle. Principal factors thought to cause current desertified conditions are shifts in seasonal precipitation with winter precipitation favoring shrubs and summer rainfall favoring grasses. Increasing CO2 may have a fertilization effect that favors C3 shrubs over C4 grasses. Human effects on mammalian predator-prey dynamics may have caused alterations in small herbivore populations that normally dampen oscillations in plant demographics. Whether current trends in desertification are due to human or non-human forces is, at present, indeterminable. What is certain is that we live in an environment that is complex, chaotic, and at times catastrophic. Our world is dynamic, constantly evolving, and rarely at equilibrium. Future success will result because of a society¿s ability to adapt and innovate in response to change, and to do so within an ethical framework that creates potential benefit to current and future societies.