New approaches to rangeland management anticipate future ecological changes
Both climate and land uses are rapidly changing, making traditional approaches to studying and managing rangeland ecosystems less relevant. New approaches are required to determine what knowledge is needed and how it can be obtained and used to make decisions about land use, habitat, grazing, and vegetation. These approaches include global, in addition to local perspectives, and recognizing that people are an important part of the picture.
In a special issue of the journal Rangeland Ecology & Management focusing on “Big Questions Emerging from a Century of Rangeland Science and Management,” scientists offer new strategies for rangeland management. These include integrated knowledge systems and resilience-based frameworks for social-ecological systems.
Traditional strategies have focused on the application of local knowledge to local ecosystems. This knowledge is disappearing, however, with the retirement, relocation, or death of those involved. Family ranches in the western United States are being subdivided and sold. Conflicts have caused people to relocate in African countries with large areas of rangeland. With such occurrences, the local knowledge necessary for sustainable production from these lands can be lost.
As climatic conditions change, knowledge of climate, land use, and soils must also transform, because the past may no longer effectively predict the future. Changes are required in how knowledge, information, and observations are developed and applied in rangeland science.
One article proposes the development and use of integrated knowledge systems. Data, literature, and other resources should be collected from various sources and organized by topic. Technology can be used to manage the abundance and availability of this information. In an integrated knowledge system, ecological attributes such as vegetation, soil, and climate determine relevance while location is flexible.
Another approach to future rangeland management recognizes the connection between ecological and human elements of nature. Resilience-based management seeks to build the capacity to adapt. This system does not seek a single best possible solution, but instead looks for a set of viable responses and approaches to manage systems. This new approach will enable rangeland systems to continue to thrive with increasing change and uncertainty. Collectively, a broader scope of diverse knowledge needs to be captured, organized, and applied to rangeland management in the 21st century.
Full text of the articles “A Strategy for Rangeland Management Based on Best Available Knowledge and Information” and “The Elusive Promise of Social-Ecological Approaches to Rangeland Management” in this issue of Rangeland Ecology & Management, Vol. 65, No. 6, 2012, are now available.
Rangeland Ecology & Management is a publication of the Society for Range Management. Since 1948, this peer-reviewed journal has provided a forum for the presentation and discussion of facts, ideas, and philosophies pertaining to the study, management, ecology, and use of rangelands and their resources. To learn more about the society, visit http://www.srmjournals.org.