SS 6 - Scale, Heterogeneity, and Resilience: Grounding Abstract Concepts in Rangelands

Monday, August 8, 2011: 10:00 AM-11:30 AM
16B, Austin Convention Center
Organizer: Nathan Sayre
Co-organizer: Brandon T. Bestelmeyer
Rangelands are characterized by low productivity, high variability, and susceptibility to degradation through human uses. This combination of factors has helped make rangeland ecosystems a primary source of theoretical advances in non-equilibrium ecology, including ideas about multiple stable states, thresholds, and spatial and temporal scaling. While such theory has clearly advanced our understanding of rangelands and other ecosystems, it has not necessarily resulted in better land management. As part of the ESA initiative on Earth Stewardship, this Special Session will address the interface of three key concepts in ecological theory and management practice: scale, heterogeneity, and resilience. To date, resilience and thresholds have remained abstract concepts that are often defined circularly. Heterogeneity, and the issues of scaling that it raises, represent a potential avenue for getting beyond this circularity and operationalizing resilience for research and management. Representatives of the sponsoring ESA Rangeland Ecology section, including Sam Fuhlendorf, Katharine Suding, and Brandon Bestelmeyer, will initiate discussions with short presentations. The potential uses of theoretical concepts will be summarized in a publication. We anticipate the following benefits from the Special Session and its products: (1) The interface of ecological theory and environmental management will be of broad interest to ESA membership; (2) The diverse membership of the Rangeland Ecology section, including academia, land-owners, governmental and NGO programs, and international aid organizations, will provide a candid assessment of the role of theory in real world management activities and foster constructive discussions about how the current rift between theory and application could be approached.
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