El Nino as a window of opportunity for the restoration of degraded arid ecosystems

Holmgren, M; Scheffer, M. 2001. ECOSYSTEMS 4 (2): 151-159.

In their discussion of the uses of higher-than-normal moisture periods in El Nino weather cycles to combat degraded landscapes, these authors provide a thorough background of the ecological processes and challenges of global desertification. I found the explanations and examples of these specific conditions to be useful both in terms of understanding the specifics of arid and semi-arid land degradation, and of understanding the great challenges associated with alternative steady states, or "dynamical regimes". The interactive processes that push systems to the point of no return (initiated primarily by over-grazing combined with aridity, in these cases) are discussed in depth.

The authors use this platform to urge further research and specific experimental projects that take advantage of El Nino cycles. The thrust of their strategy involves the use of shifts in grazing patterns in relation to extra moisture. I was surprised that they only briefly discussed what kind of other strategies might be combined with grazing control to accelerate the the advantages provided by wet weather cycles.

In all, the paper promotes a high level of specific observation of weather cycles, in combination with observation of other natural processes, that is an inspiring model for landscape-scale restoration

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