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How Can Science Be General, Yet Specific? The Conundrum of Rangeland Science in the 21st Century
- Peters, Debra P. C., Belnap, Jayne, Ludwig, John A., Collins, Scott L., Paruelo, José, Hoffman, M. Timm, Havstad, Kris M.
- Rangeland ecology & management 2012 v.65 no.6 pp. 613-622
- climate, ecology, humans, land cover, rangelands, scientists, society
- A critical challenge for range scientists is to provide input to management decisions for land units where little or no data exist. The disciplines of range science, basic ecology, and global ecology use different perspectives and approaches with different levels of detail to extrapolate information and understanding from well-studied locations to other land units. However, these traditional approaches are expected to be insufficient in the future as both human and climatic drivers change in magnitude and direction, spatial heterogeneity in land cover and its use increases, and rangelands become increasingly connected at local to global scales by flows of materials, people, and information. Here we argue that to overcome limitations of each individual discipline, and to address future rangeland problems effectively, scientists will need to integrate these disciplines successfully and in novel ways. The objectives of this article are 1) to describe the background, historical development, and limitations of current approaches employed by these disciplines; 2) to describe an integrated approach that takes advantage of the strengths and minimizes the weaknesses of these individual approaches; and 3) to discuss the challenges and implications of this integrated approach to the future of range science when climate and human drivers are nonstationary. This integration will be critical for applying range science to the management of specific land units; will contribute to and benefit from the development of general ecological principles; and will assist in addressing problems facing society at regional, continental, and global scales.