Disentangling complex landscapes: new insights into arid and semiarid system dynamics

TitleDisentangling complex landscapes: new insights into arid and semiarid system dynamics
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsPeters DC, Bestelmeyer BT, Herrick JE, Fredrickson E.L., H. Monger C, Havstad K
Date PublishedJune 2006
Accession NumberJRN00442
ARIS Log Number197041
Keywordsalternative states, cross-scale interactions, desertification, feedbacks and thresholds, nonlinear dynamics

Although desertification is a global phenomenon and numerous studies have provided information on dynamics at specific sites, spatial and temporal variation in response to desertification have led to alternative, and often controversial, hypotheses about the key factors that determine these dynamics. We present a new research framework that includes five interacting elements to explain these dynamics: (1) historical legacies, environmental driving variables, (3) a soil-geomorphic template, (4) horizontal and vertical transport vectors, and (5) redistribution of resources within and among spatial units. We offer a six-step operational approach that is applicable to many landscapes, and illustrate its utility for understanding present-day landscape organization, forecasting future dynamics, and making effective management decisions.