How can science be general, yet specific: The conundrum of rangeland science in the 21st Century

TitleHow can science be general, yet specific: The conundrum of rangeland science in the 21st Century
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsPeters DC, Belnap J, Ludwig J., Collins S.L., Paruelo J., M. Hoffman T, Havstad K
JournalRangeland Ecology and Management
Start Page613
Date Published11/2012
Accession NumberJRN49898
ARIS Log Number269562
Keywordsdownscaling, extrapolation, global ecology, integration, nonstationarity, spatial heterogeneity

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.