Coordinated LandManagement on Rangelands to Enhance the Delivery of Ecosystem Services
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Human societies depend for their survival and wellbeing on the goods and services provided by self-regenerating ecosystems. Rangelands represent one of the most diverse and extensive collection of ecosystems across the world, generally occurring in areas that are unsuited for intensive agriculture or forestry because of climatic, edaphic and/or topographic limitations (Stoddart et al. 1975; SRM 1998; Holechek et al. 2010). Depending on the extent to which woodlands and arid areas are included in rangelands, they cover about 50 to 70% of the earth's landmass (Holechek et al. 2010). As the global human population grows towards 8 billion, the integrity of many rangelands and the critical ecosystem services they provide are becoming increasingly compromised. Drivers of such degradation include increasing land ownership fragmentation, conversion of rangelands to croplands in marginally productive areas, overgrazing by domestic livestock, and woody plant expansion across large areas mainly due to fire suppression policies and long-term overgrazing (Hamilton 2004, Holechek et al. 2010). Rangeland degradation undermines the delivery of many critical ecosystem services, including provisioning services (forage and clean water), regulating services (soil carbon sequestration and water filtration), cultural services (aesthetic quality of landscapes), and supporting services (nutrient cycling and biodiversity). The management of the extensive rangeland ecosystems to ensure the continued delivery of such ecosystem services often requires coordinated land management decisions across jurisdictional boundaries, including publicly, communally and privately owned and managed land. In the Southern Great Plains (Mexico to Southern Kansas, including Texas) coordinated rangeland management is especially critical for the ecological sound management of rangelands to ensure the continued delivery of ecosystem services due to the large proportions of the land surface are privately owned. However, many rural areas are experiencing increasing land subdivision and ownership and decision-making fragmentation. Therefore, while the coordination of decisions among rangeland owners is becoming more pressing, the increase in landownership densities in rural areas is hindering the attainment of this need.