Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

Other reports in this collection Role of Community Participation and Public Policy

Community participation in decisionmaking and management, along with public policy, can be a favorable and critical issue in implementing some adaptation options. This could result in better management of rangelands (Pringle, 1995; Allen-Diaz, 1996; Thwaites et al., 1998), thereby probably meeting conservation objectives (Pringle, 1995). Decisions to be made might include:

  • Determinations about appropriate stocking rates, which might require discussion and negotiations among stakeholders, especially because stocking rates might be more social than technically oriented (Abel, 1997)
  • Choosing some agroforestry practices that fulfil local needs, especially because many communities rely on fuelwood (Benjaminsen 1993)
  • Diversification, since some communities could get or have already gotten involved in tourism as a way of highlighting some of the unique flora, fauna, and landscape features, thereby conserving the systems, reducing some of the impacts, and obtaining cash (Hofstede, 1995).

In dealing with options for reducing the consequences of land degradation in the future, public policy may have a crucial role (Hess and Holechek, 1995), especially because decisions at the landscape level (which are likely to include many different land tenures) are going to be increasingly important. Policies could be developed to address multiple pressures and, over the long term, to encompass sustainable land management and could include investments by governments to improve rangeland status (Morton et al., 1995; Pickup, 1998).

5.5.5. Vulnerabilities and Sensitivity to Climate Change

For the future of rangelands, it is important to reduce the vulnerability of these systems to climate change. This is likely to be achieved by considering social and economic factors that determine land use by human populations (Allen-Diaz, 1996). Soil stability and thus maintenance of water and nutrient cycles are essential in reducing the risk of desertification. Any changes in these processes could make rangelands particularly vulnerable to climate change. Land degradation is a nonlinear process with thresholds that make these systems sensitive and vulnerable (Puigdefabregas, 1998). Prevention of land degradation might be a cheaper option than restoration, which can be costly (Puigdefabregas, 1998). Some studies suggest that changes in rainfall pattern may make some vegetation types within rangelands more vulnerable (e.g., Miombo woodlands—Fuller and Prince, 1996) if growing periods could not shift or if these growing periods coincide with insect outbreak.

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