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The sheep in wolf‘s clothing? Recognizing threats for land degradation in Iceland using state-and-transition models

The sheep in wolf‘s clothing? Recognizing threats for land degradation in Iceland using state-and-transition models


Title: The sheep in wolf‘s clothing? Recognizing threats for land degradation in Iceland using state-and-transition models
Author: Barrio, Isabel C   orcid.org/0000-0002-8120-5248
Hik, D.S.
Þórrsson, Jóhann
Svavarsdóttir, Kristín
Marteinsdóttir, Bryndís   orcid.org/0000-0003-3779-7327
Jónsdóttir, Ingibjörg Svala   orcid.org/0000-0003-3804-7077
Date: 2018
Language: English
University/Institute: Háskóli Íslands
University of Iceland
School: Institute of Life and Environmental Sciences
Verkfræði- og náttúruvísindasvið (HÍ)
School of Engineering and Natural Sciences (UI)
Department: Líf- og umhverfisvísindastofnun (HÍ)
Institute of Life and Environmental Sciences (UI)
Series: Land Degradation and Development
ISSN: 1085-3278
1099-145X (eISSN)
DOI: 10.1002/ldr.2978
Subject: Adaptive monitoring; Land management; Rangeland; Sheep grazing; Landeyðing; Jarðvegseyðing; Landnýting; Beitilönd
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11815/736

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Citation:

Barrio IC, Hik DS, Thórsson J,Svavarsdóttir K, Marteinsdóttir B, Jónsdóttir IS. The sheep inwolf's clothing? Recognizing threats for land degradation inIceland using state‐and‐transition models. Land Degrad Dev.2018;1–12. doi:10.1002/ldr.2978

Abstract:

Land degradation and extensive soil erosion are serious environmental concerns in Iceland. Natural processes associated with a harsh climate and frequent volcanic activity have shaped Icelandic landscapes. However, following human settlement and the introduction of livestock in the 9th century the extent of soil erosion rapidly escalated. Despite increased restoration and afforestation efforts and a considerable reduction in sheep numbers during the late 20th century, many Icelandic rangelands remain in poor condition. A deeper understanding of the ecology of these dynamic landscapes is needed, and state-and-transition models (STMs) can provide a useful conceptual framework. STMs have been developed for ecosystems worldwide to guide research, monitoring and management, but have been used at relatively small spatial scales and have not been extensively applied to high-latitude rangelands. Integrating the best available knowledge, we develop STMs for rangelands in Iceland, where sheep grazing is often regarded as a main driver of degradation. We use STMs at a country-wide scale for three time periods with different historical human influence, from pre-settlement to present days. We also apply our general STM to a case study in the central highlands of Iceland to illustrate the potential application of these models at scales relevant to management. Our STMs identify the set of possible states, transitions and thresholds in these ecosystems and their changes over time, and suggest increasing complexity in recent times. This approach can help identify important knowledge gaps and inform management efforts and monitoring programmes, by identifying realistic and achievable conservation and restoration goals.

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