Desertification of Rangelands

TitleDesertification of Rangelands
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsPeters DC, Archer SR, Bestelmeyer BT, Brooks A, Brown J., Comrie A, H. Gimblett R, Goldstein JH, Havstad K, Lopez-Hoffman L., H. Monger C, Okin GS, Rango A., Sala O.E, Tweedie C, Vivoni E
Book TitleClimate Vulnerability: Understanding and Addressing Threats to Essential Resources
Series TitleClimate Vulnerability
Series Volume4
PublisherAcademic Press
ARIS Log Number286531
Keywordsbiodiversity, climate, desertification, dryland ecosystems, feedbacks, grasslands, invasive species, land management, land use, land-atmosphere interactions, shrublands, state change, thresholds, water, wind
AbstractDesertification, the broad-scale conversion of perennial grasslands to dominance by xerophytic shrubs, and the attendant consequences to ecosystem services has affected arid and semiarid regions globally over the past several centuries. This state change is expected to continue in the future as environmental drivers continue to change. It is generally well-recognized that desertification is a cumulative threat that explicitly includes both climatic (e.g., drought) and land-use drivers (e.g., livestock overgrazing and inappropriate conversions of rangeland to cropland).  However, a basis for ranking the relative importance of these drivers is lacking for many locations. In addition, the emergence of additional drivers (e.g., non-native forbs and grasses modifying historic fire regimes), will result in even more complex dynamics in the future. Clearly, directional changes in climate can have unanticipated effects, in particular for dryland regions with low and variable precipitation and high temperatures in the growing season. However, any change in climate will be operating across diverse landscapes that include a mosaic of human-dominated and natural states, each governed by different drivers and susceptible to different threats. Accounting for the separate and interactive effects of these threats on grassland-shrubland transitions will be necessary as we move forward into a difficult to predict, if not unknown, environmental world.