Biogeochemistry of desertification and woody encroachment in grazing systems

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

17 Scopus citations


Grazing systems occupy more of the terrestrial biosphere than any other form of land use, with arid and semi-arid regions supporting disproportionately larger grazing area than other biomes. Two common responses of dryland ecosystems to grazing practices are desertification and woody encroachment, with the former occurring in more arid zones and the latter becoming prevalent in mesic areas. Desertification and woody encroachment are linked to ecosystem impoverishment and land-use abandonment. Desertification leads to fragmented ecosystem structure and decreased carbon storage. Woody encroachment results in increased structural heterogeneity of the landscape, elevated carbon stores aboveground, and variable belowground carbon responses. Nitrogen accumulates under woody plants in both desertification and woody encroachment scenarios, but large-scale changes in nitrogen stocks and trace gas fluxes differ substantially between these types of land degradation. New remote sensing approaches based on imaging spectroscopy allow regional-scale estimates of carbon and nitrogen dynamics that will increase our understanding of desertification and woody encroachment in global grazing systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEcosystems and Land Use Change, 2004
EditorsGregory P. Asner, Richard A. Houghton, Ruth S. Defries
PublisherBlackwell Publishing Ltd
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781118665985
ISBN (Print)9780875904184
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameGeophysical Monograph Series
ISSN (Print)0065-8448
ISSN (Electronic)2328-8779

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics


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