Comprehending complexity together with the public: Practical strategies for improving rangeland conservation, restoration and management

TitleComprehending complexity together with the public: Practical strategies for improving rangeland conservation, restoration and management
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsHerrick JE, Bestelmeyer B, McCarthy P., Bestelmeyer B, Havstad K, Melgoza A., Tugel A.J.
Conference Name87th Annual Meeting, Ecological Society of America
Date PublishedAugust 4-9, 2002
Conference LocationTucson, AZ
ARIS Log Number139684
Keywordseducation, monitoring, rangeland, state-and-transition models
AbstractRangeland ecosystems are complex, particularly when soil and climate are considered. Complexity is viewed as a liability when dealing with the public and scientific uncertainty often leads to uncertainties about the usefulness of science. Basic research is needed to reduce scientific uncertainties about the probable consequences of human intervention in arid and semiarid environments. Research is also needed to develop tools that can be used to more effectively communicate our evolving understanding. We will describe four successful approaches that illustrate how indicators and conceptual models based on basic research are being used to increase appreciation of ecological complexity, reduce environmental conflicts, and improve rangeland management: (1) monitoring and assessment workshops for ranchers, environmentalists and government agency personnel in the U.S. and Mexico, (2) development of ecological state and transition models, (3) implementation of integrated soil and vegetation management and monitoring plans, and (4) introduction of school children to ecological and experimental design concepts. All four of these approaches use indicators of basic ecosystem functions to help individuals and organizations with diverse goals and logistical constraints to understand and apply concepts including soil-vegetation feedbacks and ecological thresholds. Conceptual state and transition models are used to help explain how human management of fire, livestock and wildlife grazing and invasive species can have diverse effects on vegetation dynamics.