Ecosystem Services from U.S. Rangelands: A Synthesis

TitleEcosystem Services from U.S. Rangelands: A Synthesis
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsHavstad K
Conference NameSociety for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
ARIS Log Number202778
Keywordsecosystem, rangeland
AbstractThe over 300 million ha of public and private rangelands in the United States are characterized by low and variable precipitation, nutrient-poor soils, and high spatial and temporal variability in plant production. This land type has provided a variety of goods and services, with the provisioning of food and fiber dominating through much of the 20th century. More recently, food production from a rangeland-based livestock industry is often pressured for a variety of reasons, including poor economic returns, increased regulations, an aging rural population, residential development, and increasingly diverse interests of land owners. A shift to other provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting services is occurring with important implications for carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and conservation incentives. There are numerous goods and services possible from rangelands that can supply societal demands such as clean water and a safe food supply. The use of ecologically-based principles of land management remains at the core of the ability of private land owners and public land managers to provide these existing and emerging services. We suggest that expectations need to be based on a thorough understanding of the diverse potentials of these lands and their inherent limits. A critical provisioning service to rangelands will be management practices that either maintain ecological functions or that restores functions to systems that have been substantially degraded over past decades. With proper incentives and economic benefits, rangelands, in the U.S. or globally, can be expected to provide both historical provisioning and more unique goods and services in a sustainable fashion, albeit in different proportions than in the past.