A unified framework for assessment and application of ecological thresholds

Briske, D.D., S.D. Fuhlendorf, and F. E. Smeins. 2006. A unified framework for assessment and application of ecological thresholds. Rangeland Ecology and Management 59: 225-236.

Understanding the ecological resilience of a community or ecosystem has been proposed as a key to restoring any degraded or altered community or ecosystem (Suding et al 2004), as well as identifying and understanding the triggers and thresholds that may shift a native community into an undesired state (Groffman et al 2006). However, it is still unclear how to assess thresholds within communities and how management strategies can incorporate this ecological theory. Briske et al. 2006 attempt to challenge this disconnect within rangeland ecology.
The authors provide a good review of the ecological framework of thresholds, which I found very helpful. They also presented the crossing of a thresholds as a staggered process, suggesting that a community doesn’t usually cross a threshold and immediately shift to a differed community type. They acknowledge that this shift is a gradual process, which I find incredibly pertinent for management practices that are more preventive. While the authors do attempt to discuss how to integrate the threshold framework into management strategies, this section still remains abstract and falls short. It would have been nice if they had included a case study or a more detailed situation of how theories could be adopted. Overall, they did provide a good conceptual framework of ecological thresholds that could be more applicable to management beyond rangeland management.

Image credit: Loralee Larios (2008). Cattle in the rolling foothills East of the Galiuro Mountains in Southeast Arizona.

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