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The Global Drylands Observing System proposed in this issue should reduce the huge uncertainty about the extent of desertification and the rate at which it is changing, and provide valuable information to scientists, planners and policy-makers. However, it needs careful design if information outputs are to be scientifically credible and salient to the needs of people living in dry areas. Its design would benefit from a robust, integrated scientific framework like the Dryland Development Paradigm to guide/inform the development of an integrated global monitoring and assessment programme (both directly and indirectly via the use of modelling). Various types of dryland system models (e.g. environmental, socioeconomic, land-use cover change, and agent-based) could provide insights into how to combine the plethora of monitoring information gathered on key socioeconomic and biophysical indicators to develop integrated assessment models. This paper shows how insights from models can help in selecting and integrating indicators, interpreting synthetic trends, incorporating cross-scalar processes, representing spatio-temporal variation, and evaluating uncertainty. Planners could use this integrated global monitoring and assessment programme to help implement effective policies to address the global problem of desertification.
While research-article impact is routinely judged by citation counts, there is recognition that a much broader view is needed to better judge the true value of citations. This paper applies a developing framework based on the application of network theory, where the network consists of journal articles on arid-systems research which are listed on ISI Web-of-Science. Keywords were used to identify articles related to arid-systems research. Linkages between articles were defined by citations, and we bound our analysis by focusing on how the Australian subsample contributes to the international arid-systems literature. The analysis showed that impact based on how articles contribute structurally to the flow of knowledge within the literature offers an alternative metric to citation counts. The analysis also presented a partitioned view of the Australian arid literature. This showed that there exists some citation-based structure within the literature, and we showed this structure better describes the literature than a partition based on which journal articles are published in.
Keywords: Bibliometrics; Dryland; Graph theory; Rangeland; Semiarid
We explore the response of pastoralists to rangeland resource variation in time and space, focusing on regions where high variation makes it unlikely that an economically viable herd can be maintained on a single management unit. In such regions, the need to move stock to find forage in at least some years has led to the evolution of nomadism and transhumance, and reciprocal grazing agreements among the holders of common-property rangeland. The role of such informal institutions in buffering resource variation is well documented in some Asian and African rangelands, but in societies with formally established private-property regimes, where we focus, such institutions have received little attention. We examine agistment networks, which play an important role in buffering resource variation in modern-day Australia. Agistment is a commercial arrangement between pastoralists who have less forage than they believe they require and pastoralists who believe they have more. Agistment facilitates the movement of livestock via a network based largely on trust. We are concerned exclusively with the link between the characteristics of biophysical variation and human aspects of agistment networks, and we developed a model to test the hypothesis that such a link could exist. Our model builds on game theory literature, which explains cooperation between strangers based on the ability of players to learn whom they can trust. Our game is played on a highly stylized landscape that allows us to control and isolate the degree of spatial variation and spatial covariation. We found that agistment networks are more effective where spatial variation in resource availability is high, and generally more effective when spatial covariation is low. Policy design that seeks to work with existing social networks in rangelands has potential, but this potential varies depending on localized characteristics of the biophysical variability.
We analyse commercially operated rangelands as coupled systems of people and nature. The biophysical components include: (i) the reduction and recovery of potential primary production, re ected as changes in grass production per unit of rainfall; (ii) changes in woody plants dependent on the grazing and re regimes; and (iii) livestock and wool dynamics in uenced by season, condition of the rangeland and numbers of wild and feral animals. The social components include the managers, who vary with regard to a range of cognitive abilities and lifestyle choices, and the regulators who vary in regard to policy goals.
We compare agent-based and optimization models of a rangeland system. The agent-based model leads to recognition that policies select for certain management practices by creating a template that governs the trajectories of the behaviour of individuals, learning, and overall system dynamics. Conservative regu- lations reduce short-term loss in production but also restrict learning. A free-market environment leads to severe degradation but the surviving pastoralists perform well under subsequent variable conditions. The challenge for policy makers is to balance the needs for learning and for preventing excessive degra- dation. A genetic algorithm model optimizing for net discounted income and based on a population of management solutions (stocking rate, how much to suppress re, etc.) indicates that robust solutions lead to a loss of about 40% compared with solutions where the sequence of rainfall was known in advance: this is a similar gure to that obtained from the agent-based model.
We conclude that, on the basis of Levin’s three criteria, rangelands with their livestock and human managers do constitute complex adaptive systems. If this is so, then command-and-control approaches to rangeland policy and management are bound to fail.
Keywords: rangelands; complex adaptive system; resilience; institutions; agent-based models
We developed a stylized mathematical model to explore the effects of physical, ecological, and economic factors on the resilience of a managed fire-driven rangeland system. Depending on grazing pressure, the model exhibits one of three distinct configurations: a fire-dominated, grazing-dominated, or shrub-dominated rangeland system. Transaction costs and costs due to shrub invasion, via their effect on grazing decisions, strongly influence which stable configuration is occupied. This, in turn, determines the resilience of the rangeland system. These results are used to establish conditions under which management for profit is consistent with the maintenance of resilience. Keywords: resilience; rangelands; multiple states; complex systems.
We developed a stylized mathematical model to explore the effects of physical, ecological, and economic factors on the resilience of a managed fire-driven rangeland system. Depending on grazing pressure, the model exhibits one of three distinct configurations: a fire-dominated, grazing-dominated, or shrub-dominated rangeland system. Transaction costs and costs due to shrub invasion, via their effect on grazing decisions, strongly influence which stable configuration is occupied. This, in turn, determines the resilience of the rangeland system. These results are used to establish conditions under which management for profit is consistent with the maintenance of resilience.
Keywords: resilience; rangelands; multiple states; complex systems.
This paper describes an adaptive agent model of rangelands based on concepts of complex adaptive systems. The behavioural and biological processes of pastoralists, regulators, livestock, grass and shrubs are modelled as well as the interactions between these components. The evolution of the rangeland system is studied under different policy and institutional regimes that affect the behaviour and learning of pastoralists, and hence the state of the ecological system. Adaptive agent models show that effective learning and effective ecosystem management do not necessarily coincide and can suggest potentially useful alternatives to the design of policies and institutions.
Keywords: Complex adaptive systems; Ecosystem management; Rangelands; Adaptive agents.