Lawrence, KS (PRWEB) January 31, 2013
The earth’s population, already at 7 billion humans, is expected to reach 10 billion by 2100. At the same time, our per capita consumption of food, fiber, and fuel is increasing. These changes are placing new demands on the productivity of our lands.
A special issue of the journal Rangeland Ecology and Management focuses on the “Big Questions Emerging from a Century of Rangeland Science and Management.” Among those questions are how will rangeland science best support a changing world that demands more and varying uses of land?
In the United States, rangeland management as a profession came about in response to degradation of western lands, which was due in part to overgrazing and free access policies. With ecologically based management, the condition of these lands has improved over the past century. About 80 percent of nonfederal lands are now considered healthy.
Looking to the future, rangeland management will have a new role to play in global food security. Millions of hectares of rangeland will be converted to croplands, some of it of marginal quality for crop production. Innovative planning and management will be necessary to sustain the productivity of these lands.
The authors of one article in this special issue propose strategies to increase the relevance of rangeland science to global land management. These strategies include expanding awareness and understanding of local to global economic, social, and technological trends to anticipate land conversion; and anticipating societal consequences of large-scale changes in land cover and use. Rather than focusing on a particular land use, such as livestock grazing, rangeland science will have to work with other disciplines to support sustainable land management independent of its current use.
Another article in this issue focuses on conservation of ecological pattern and process. The authors assert that rangeland management has promoted a utilitarian view of land management in the past that has led to a decline in biodiversity. Fire and grazing should be seen as essential parts of ecosystem processes rather than as tools to meet production goals. This new management approach will lead to greater heterogeneity of lands that can provide the services valued by society.
Rangeland degradation in developing countries offers yet another challenge. Conflict and poverty create greater short-term demands, overwhelming the goal of long-term sustainability. Conflict resolution may become part of rangeland management. Here, rangeland managers can help to create sustainable projects that will enhance self-reliability and community empowerment.
Rangeland science will have to accept the potential of land to support various potential ecosystem services and that future generations may decide to use the land for any or all of those services. The question becomes, how to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Full text of the article, “Revolutionary Land Use Change in the 21st Century: Is (Rangeland) Science Relevant?” and other articles in this special issue of Rangeland Ecology and Management, Vol. 65, No. 6, 2012, are available at http://srmjournals.org/doi/full/10.2111/REM-D-11-00186.1.