Ecosystem functions of grazing lands

TitleEcosystem functions of grazing lands
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsHavstad K
Book TitleInternational Community Rangeland Mangement, People and Policy: Introducing Some Key Concepts
PublisherFord Foundation Press
ARIS Log Number222931
Keywordsecosystem, grazing, rangelands, shrubland

An ecosystem is a community of animals and plants interacting with one another and their physical environment. Rangeland ecosystems are the communities of organisms including humans, interacting with each other within environments characterized by herbaceous and/or shrubby vegetation common to arid and semi-arid regions around the world. These ecosystems occur within the grasslands of Asia, the deserts of North America, the savannas of Africa, the shrublands of Australia, the pampas of /South America, and in many other regions. Over 1 billion people live within these rangeland ecosystems. Though many goods and services from rangeland ecosystems are critically important to the 1 billion people living on or adjacent to rangeland, many of these services lack specific economic values. Few services are linked to an economic market that would create specific values, or incentives for conservation of their provisions to the public. Often values for services have been based on the known values of common goods, such as the value of rangeland for providing forage for grazing livestock. These economic values are often quite low because of the relatively low production capacities of the world’s rangelands. However, markets for less traditional regulating services such as carbon sequestration, or cultural services such as recreation, are emerging. It will be critical that appropriate policies are implemented that provide appropriate incentives and benefits that will support the conservation of any ecosystem services as their economic values are more readily apparent and utilized.  Irrespective of the specific arrays of goods and services provided from rangelands, a key service to rangelands will be the use of ecologically based practices to ensure their sustained resilience, or the capacity to reorganize and provide their characteristic functions, structures and feedbacks following disturbances.  Rangelands are coupled systems of nature and humans, and proper management of these landscapes is critical to their continued supply of services and good that we request, recognized or not and appropriately valued or not.