The 'range problem' after a century of rangeland science: New research themes for altered landscapes

TitleThe 'range problem' after a century of rangeland science: New research themes for altered landscapes
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsSayre N.F, deBuys W, Bestelmeyer BT, Havstad K
JournalRangeland Ecology and Management
Start Page545
Date Published11/2012
ARIS Log Number269981
Keywordsapplied science, ecosystem management, range science history, science-management linkages, translational science

The rangeland science profession in the United States has its roots in the widespread overgrazing and concurrent severe droughts of the late 19th Century. These drivers contributed to rangeland resource degradation especially in the American Southwest-what E. O. Wooton (1908) called "The Range Problem." Although logical for the time, the scientific activities and resulting policies that arose out of this catastrophe were based on reductionist experimentation and productionist emphases on food and fiber. After a century of science and policy there are two additional perspectives that shape our vision for the emphases of the future. First, rangeland landscapes are extremely heterogeneous; general principles derived from scientific experimentation cannot be easily, or generally, applied without adjusting to the distinct societal and ecological characteristics of a location. Second, rangeland management occurs at spatial scales considerably larger than those that have typically been addressed in range science. Scaling up science results is not a simple, additive process. The leading features of the emerging science are (1) research at landscape scales and (2) over longer time spans, that (3) approaches conservation and management practices as treatments requiring scientific evaluation, (4) incorporates local knowledge, (5) is explicitly applied in nature, and (6) is transparent in its practice. We strongly argue for a science that supports resource management by testing hypotheses relevant to actual conservation practices and iteratively applying its findings in partnership with managers in an ongoing, adaptive fashion.