Friday, August 7, 2009

PS 83-85: Rangeland ecosystem goods and services as a bridge between social, economic, and ecological systems, and processes

Kristie Maczko1, Daniel W. McCollum2, Lori A. Hidinger3, John A. Tanaka4, John E. Mitchell2, William E. Fox5, Urs Kreuter5, Clifford Duke6, H. Theodore Heintz7, and Robert P. Breckenridge8. (1) Colorado State University, (2) USDA Forest Service, (3) Arizona State University, (4) Oregon State University, (5) Texas A&M University, (6) Ecological Society of America, (7) White House Council on Environmental Quality (retired), (8) Idaho National Laboratory

Background/Question/Methods National workshops convened by the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable (SRR) related to rangeland ecosystem goods and services captured varied stakeholder perspectives, developed categorization frameworks, and began to operationalize the combination of rangeland ecosystem goods, services, and core processes into SRR’s Integrated Social, Economic, and Ecological Conceptual (ISEEC) Framework for Considering Rangeland Sustainability.  The workshops incorporated extractable goods derived from rangelands, tangible and intangible rangeland ecosystem services, and core ecosystem processes that underlie these goods and services. While rangeland amenity values matter to some individuals, profit potential may motivate many others to engage in conservation and/or provision of rangeland ecosystem goods and services. SRR participants identified criteria for evaluating public and private programs that offer conservation incentives, specifically conservation easements and credit trading. Participants also developed an applied evaluation method suitable for use by ranchers, technical service providers, and other land managers who seek to identify and consider the income potential of rangeland ecosystem goods and services on their lands. 
Results/Conclusions The ISEEC Framework developed by SRR was applied to the Texas Leon River Restoration Project to illustrate the utility of the framework to successfully address multiple desired uses associated with traditional ranching operations, national security military uses, and critical species habitat requirements.  Comprehensive monitoring is also foundational to successful rangeland management for ecosystem goods and services. Managers and scientists need baseline data to detect changes in the ecosystem that may be due to management actions, disturbances, or longer term processes like climate change. Actions and reactions in social and economic systems also must be monitored to obtain a complete picture of sustainability. SRR’s ecological, social and economic indicator set for rangeland inventory, monitoring, and assessment may be applied at multiple spatial scales.
Workshop participants concluded by recommending future research and efforts to better inform management and conservation of the nation’s rangeland resources, as well as the goods and services that these valuable lands provide.  The concept of adaptive management serves as an illustration of how such information can enter the policy cycle.  Better information leads to better decisions, culminating in sustainable management of rangeland ecosystem goods and services to satisfy wants of current populations while also conserving the nation’s rangelands for future generations.