Desertification and modern science (

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Modern science causes desertification

Submitted by Peter Donovan

by Jeff Goebel

Note: Jeff Goebel has been facilitating and teaching Holistic Management for many years. His website is

How would a natural resource science develop if it weren’t able to experience and observe the natural environment? Not very well! This science is called Range Management. This discipline was formed during the 1930s, with the advent of the Dust Bowl. The odd thing is that naturally functioning grassland and savannah ecosystems stopped occurring in the 1870s on the Great Plains and 1820s in California. Those are the decades when massive migrations of ungulates and associated predators were eliminated almost to extinction. Ungulates are animals with multiple stomachs, and capable of breaking down the lignin in grasses. Lignin provides plants with structure and is difficult to break down in arid climates. Examples of ungulates that can break down lignin are American Bison, Tule Elk, Big Horn Sheep, wildebeest, antelope, domestic cattle, and domestic sheep.

The American Bison of the Great Plains and the Tule Elk of the California central region were annihilated and replaced with cattle and sheep that generally remained on pastures in smaller numbers for extended times. Without the predators, there was no need for these new ungulates to move away from water. The advent of barbed wire exacerbated this situation. After numerous decades of this kind of animal behavior, range science emerged. What did they study? The grasslands of the United States, without the migratory animals!



Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.