Beyond desertification

Photo credit: Google

Desertification in China’s northwest

Jornada to publish special issue on desertification in dryland landscapes

by Debra Peters (JRN)

in LTER Network News Winter 2014, Vol. 27 No. 4

The Jornada Basin (JRN) Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program, in collaboration with the Jornada US Department of Agriculture‘s Agricultural Research Service will publish a special issue, “Beyond Desertification: New Paradigms in Dryland Landscapes”, in the February 2015 issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Desertification, the persistent and severe broad-scale reduction in biological productivity through the conversion of perennial grasslands to dominance by woody plants or bare ground, has traditionally been the dominant dynamic of interest in arid and semiarid ecosystems globally. Drought and overgrazing are often contributing factors to this conversion, yet the proposed explanations for any particular location are numerous and often controversial. Long-term research at the Jornada USDA-LTER site in southern New Mexico since 1912 has documented these dramatic changes in vegetation structure and ecosystem processes. However, research over the past decade is generating new perspectives on desertification, and is providing new insights into the dynamics of these systems within the context of global change. If we have learned anything from over a century of ecological research in dryland environments, then it is that location and context matter. New perspectives are explicitly accounting for the ecological implications of location, how the past informs the present, and how the geographical interrelationships change through time and drive further change.

Papers in the special issue illustrate how an understanding of these dynamics is generating better ecological understanding of how and where state and regime changes occur within the context of land use against a backdrop of climate change, and are modified by landform and prevailing conditions. New paradigms are emerging in six areas (legacies, spatial connections, land use context, ecological literacy, ecosystem services, new technologies) that, when integrated into a new framework, provide a more robust approach for understanding, managing, and predicting dryland dynamics. Although these paradigms are described in the special issue for arid and semiarid landscapes, they are also relevant in other ecosystems.

Read the full article: LTER Network News

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

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

%d bloggers like this: