Ecological transformations in desert grasslands: resist, accept, or direct?

TitleEcological transformations in desert grasslands: resist, accept, or direct?
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsBestelmeyer BT, Christensen EM, Burkett LM, Levi M, Lister L, Macanowicz N, Webb N
Conference NameSociety for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
Date Published12/05/2021
ARIS Log Number391618

The transformation of many rangeland ecosystems is inevitable, necessitating new frameworks to guide management decisions. We describe ongoing transformation in desert grasslands of southwestern New Mexico using century-long vegetation monitoring and climate datasets from the Jornada Experimental Range and monitoring of recent restoration actions. These datasets indicate undesirable, irreversible changes from historical benchmarks but include some potentially desirable outcomes. We use these datasets to consider management decisions via the resist-accept-direct (RAD) framework. Considering directional changes in climate and ecological thresholds, managers can respond to the trajectory of change by resisting (working to maintain or restore based upon historical or acceptable current ecosystem conditions), accepting (allowing an ecosystem to change without intervening), or directing (actively shaping ecosystem change toward preferred new conditions). We describe a logic for RAD decisions in rangeland management and restoration based on a consideration of climate and ecological processes.