Photo credit: NSF
The Organ Mountains are a backdrop for the Chihuahuan Desert and encroaching city of Las Cruces.
Credit: Curtis Monger, New Mexico State University
Drylands: Desolate, scorched, uninhabitable? Scientists say otherwise
Complex ecosystem is patchwork of grasses, shrubs, agricultural fields, urban-dwelling species, including humans
February 2, 2015
The following is part 17 in a series on the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network.
Drylands evoke images of desolate, scorched, uninhabitable deserts.
But arid and semi-arid lands are complex ecosystems made up of grasses, shrubs, agricultural fields and urban-dwelling plants and animals, including us.
Globally, drylands are becoming mosaics that need fresh perspectives and explanations for ecosystem processes–views that go beyond traditional paradigms of grassland-to-shrubland conversion, researchers say.
Desertification: new views
Scientists detail findings on new paradigms for dryland ecology and management in the February 2015 issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, published by the Ecological Society of America.
The issue was organized by ecologist Debra Peters, principal investigator of the Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and based at the Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
“Historically, drylands have been studied through the lens of desertification–the transition from perennial grasslands to landscapes dominated by bare ground or woody plants that are easily eroded and unpalatable to domestic livestock,” says Peters.
However, recent studies show that transitions can occur across a range of environmental conditions and socioeconomic contexts.
These journal papers, says Peters, illustrate how long-term data from Jornada Basin is being used to generate new paradigms for understanding, managing and predicting dryland dynamics across diverse landscapes.
Threats to economic stability, global societies
Read the full article: National Science Foundation