Biological feedbacks in global desertification.


Journal Article

Studies of ecosystem processes on the Jornada Experimental Range in southern New Mexico suggest that longterm grazing of semiarid grasslands leads to an increase in the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of water, nitrogen, and other soil resources. Heterogeneity of soil resources promotes invasion by desert shrubs, which leads to a further localization of soil resources under shrub canopies. In the barren area between shrubs, soil fertility is lost by erosion and gaseous emissions. This positive feedback leads to the desertification of formerly productive land in southern New Mexico and in other regions, such as the Sahel. Future desertification is likely to be exacerbated by global climate warming and to cause significant changes in global biogeochemical cycles.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Schlesinger, WH; Reynolds, JF; Cunningham, GL; Huenneke, LF; Jarrell, WM; Virginia, RA; Whitford, WG

Published Date

  • March 1, 1990

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 247 / 4946

Start / End Page

  • 1043 - 1048

PubMed ID

  • 17800060

Pubmed Central ID

  • 17800060

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1095-9203

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0036-8075

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1126/science.247.4946.1043


  • eng