Original Articles

The challenge of integrated rangeland monitoring: synthesis address


Abstract

The need to balance biodiversity conservation with sustainable development, though widely agreed upon, is elusive in practice. Human societies are increasingly disconnected from the ecosystems which support them. The loosening connection and growing scientific acceptance that ecosystems are complex, dynamic, non-linear systems pose new challenges for rangeland monitoring. Consequently, although conventional monitoring has contributed to better range practices, a far more integrated and multi-scale approach is required as human activity becomes more pervasive and dominant locally and globally. Integrated monitoring must track social and economic variables no less than ecosystem services in a reliable and affordable way. In addition, analysis and feedback involving the data collectors and land users should become an integral part of adaptive rangeland management more akin to business approaches than conventional science. As demanding as such an integrated approach may seem, much of the socioeconomic data already exists and physical and biological data can increasingly be collected and collated by new imaging technologies. For monitoring to be locally and globally useful, it must provide information to local users in a timely and usable form and simultaneously provide data on which deleterious environmental impact can be assessed independently of the users. A set of guiding principles for setting up such programmes is discussed. The utility of monitoring and its guiding principles will only work effectively where good environmental governance is practiced by users and producers affecting rangeland ecosystems.

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