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Desertification, land use, and the transformation of global drylands

Brandon T Bestelmeyer, Gregory S Okin, Michael C Duniway, Steven R Archer, Nathan F Sayre, Jebediah C Williamson, Jeffrey E Herrick
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 2015 v.13 no.1 pp. 28-36
arid lands, cropland, desertification, ecology, issues and policy, land use change, rangelands, soil properties, vegetation
Desertification is an escalating concern in global drylands, yet assessments to guide management and policy responses are limited by ambiguity concerning the definition of “desertification” and what processes are involved. To improve clarity, we propose that assessments of desertification and land transformation be placed within a state change–land‐use change (SC–LUC) framework. This framework considers desertification as state changes occurring within the context of particular land uses (eg rangeland, cropland) that interact with land‐use change. State changes that can be readily reversed are distinguished from regime shifts, which are state changes involving persistent alterations to vegetation or soil properties. Pressures driving the transformation of rangelands to other types of land uses may be low, fluctuating, or high, and may influence and be influenced by state change. We discuss how the SC–LUC perspective can guide more effective assessment of desertification and management of drylands.