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Till the Cows Come Home

Till the Cows Come Home

Overseas Failures and Critiques of Range Science

(p.186) Seven Till the Cows Come Home
The Politics of Scale
Nathan F. Sayre
University of Chicago Press

By the late 1970s, it was clear that virtually all pastoral development projects were abject failures. Chapter 7 shows how these failures, combined with a growing body of rangeland research overseas, finally dislodged Clementsian succession as the theoretical foundation of range science. European social scientists defended the economic rationality of subsistence pastoralists and challenged the thesis that communal land tenure led inevitably to overgrazing and environmental destruction. Australian ecologists began to study their rangelands and noticed that US range science couldn’t explain what they were seeing. Through the International Biological Program, ecologists from Europe, Africa, Australia and the Middle East encountered US rangelands and range science, exchanged ideas, and went back to their own rangelands in search of alternatives. Systems ecology and modeling provided them with ideas and tools that could account for the anomalies long observed on the Santa Rita and Jornada experimental ranges. By 1990, ideas from all these groups and places had come together into a “non-equilibrium” theory of rangeland ecology that is now seen as superior to Clementsian succession in most settings, especially where rainfall is limiting and highly variable. Whether the new theory will succeed where the old one failed, however, remains to be seen.

Keywords:   Clementsianism, International Biological Program, non-equilibrium ecology, pastoralism, pastoralists

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