Date of this Version
Rangeland Ecol Manage 66:512–528, September 2013, DOI: 10.2111/REM-D-12-00142.1
Recent climatic trends and climate model projections indicate that climate change will modify rangeland ecosystem functions and the services and livelihoods that they provision. Recent history has demonstrated that climatic variability has a strong influence on both ecological and social components of rangeland systems and that these systems possess substantial capacity to adapt to climatic variability. Specific objectives of this synthesis are to: 1) evaluate options to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and future climate change; 2) survey actions that individuals, enterprises, and social organizations can use to adapt to climate change; and 3) assess options for system transformation when adaptation is no longer sufficient to contend with climate change. Mitigation for carbon sequestration does not appear economically viable, given the small and highly variable carbon dioxide fluxes of rangeland ecosystems and the high transaction costs that would be incurred. In contrast, adaptation strategies are numerous and provide a means to manage risks associated with climate change. Adaptation strategies are diverse, including altered risk perception by individuals, greater flexibility of production enterprises, and modifications to social organizations that emphasize climatic variability, rather than consistency. Many adaptations represent ‘‘no regrets’’ actions because their implementation can be justified without emphasis on pending climate change. Adaptations specific to livestock production systems can include flexible herd management, alternative livestock breeds or species, innovative pest management, modified enterprise structures, and geographic relocation. Social-ecological systems in which adaptation is insufficient to counter the adverse consequences of climate change might undergo transformative change to produce alternative ecosystem services, production enterprises, and livelihoods. The rangeland profession is in a pivotal position to provide leadership on this global challenge because it represents the intersection of management and scientific knowledge, includes diverse stakeholders who derive their livelihoods from rangelands, and interacts with organizations responsible for rangeland stewardship.