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Biocomplexity, Spatial Scale, and Fragmentation: Implications for Arid and Semi-arid Ecosystems (SCALE)

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Global Objectives

1. Develop a framework for analyzing and describing ecosystem spatial complexity and its role in grazed ecosystem function and sustainability, including the movement-mediated responses of herbivores to complexity and fragmentation.
2. Determine the effects of real fragmentation experiments on herbivores, ecosystems, enterprises and people (Fig.1), and use model-simulated fragmentation/consolidation experiments to identify options for ecological and economic sustainability.
3. Characterize patterns of ecosystem fragmentation as they exist under different environmental, political and economic systems; investigate how and if ecological and political-economic factors interact to control the evolution of land use systems.
4. Create a method and modeling approach for assessing the value of natural capitol in complex grazed ecosystems, the costs of complexity loss due to fragmentation, and the trade-offs between economic inputs and ecological complexity.
5. Coordinate these analyses in an integrated assessment of complexity and fragmentation.

Research Objectives

1. Develop a state-of-knowledge publication on complexity, scale, and fragmentation.
2. Develop a framework for complexity analysis, apply to all sites, determine herbivore access to complexity for fragmented and un-fragmented grazing orbits.
3. Determine the effects of pasture size on animal diet quality and performance.
4. Determine effects of fragmentation on herbivore access to ecosystem complexity.
5. Develop a standard format to differentiate and compare land use patterns and management scales within and across study sites.
6. Analyze the history of land use systems; their causes and effects. (This research objective will be downplayed under current funding.)
7. Investigate how ecological, political, and socio-economic factors interact to influence individual land use decisions.
8. Gather information on household economic performance and the economic dimensions of livestock production systems in relation to scale and resource access.
9. Determine economic-ecological interactions resulting from alternative land use practices.
10. Determine the integrated trade-offs between ecosystem fragmentation and external economic subsidies, on enterprise and regional scale productivity. (This research objective will not be covered with current funding.)
11. Develop competing models linking animal populations to spatial complexity.
12. Model effects of fragmentation on ecosystems and people.
13. Study general responses of arid and semi-arid land ecosystems to fragmentation.

Page Last Modified: October 13, 2006
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