Applications of scaling approaches to restoring ecosystems

TitleApplications of scaling approaches to restoring ecosystems
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsHavstad K, Brown JR
Conference Name87th Annual Meeting, Ecological Society of America
Date PublishedAugust 4, 2002
Conference LocationTucson, AZ
ARIS Log Number139731
AbstractLandscape remediation will require extensive practices applied at small spatial scales and improved understanding of landscape dynamics that will trigger large-scale processes. Anthropogenic disturbances that result in degradation of ecosystems often are initiated at relatively small scales. These disturbances can disrupt small-scale processes and cascade to affect processes at larger spatial scales. Eventually, degradation is expressed at landscape, regional or larger scales and any reasonable prospects for effective remediation are poor. We use the response to livestock overgrazing arid rangelands in the southwest USA as an example of these multiscale phenomena. Initial (late 19th century) overgrazing impacts occurred over relatively small spatial extents and affected only small-scale vegetation processes. Eventually, the impacts of these disturbances accumulated to result in landscape-scale degradation that affected larger scale processes, such as plant dispersal, fire regimes, and productivity. In addition, changes in regional climatic patterns, continued livestock grazing, and introduction of non-native species complicated remediation efforts. Areas where degradation has been successful are generally small in extent and are the result of resilient soil/vegetation systems or responses to costly practices. As yet, we have not observed the reversal of degradation at large scales due to cascading effects of remediation practices implemented at small scales.