Degradation influences equilibrium and non-equilibrium dynamics in rangelands: implications in resilience and stability

By Dardo R. López, Laura Cavallero, Priscila Willems, Brandon T. Bestelmeyer & Miguel A. Brizuela

Photo of the Patagonian steppes where the study was carried out located in Pilcaniyeu (Rio negro province, Argentina). Photo credit: Dardo López.

Our work focused on the study of the ecological resilience of alternative states in steppes of Patagonia (Argentina). Resilience is the ability of an ecosystem to absorb or recover after disturbances caused either by weather events (e.g. climate) or anthropic use (e.g. livestock overgrazing). In this case, we evaluated the resilience of alternative states to weather events (wet years and droughts). We found that better conserved states have very stable dynamics associated with high resilience to disturbance factors. On the contrary, states with intermediate degradation are unstable against environmental and anthropic factors, and are very likely to continue degrading. Finally, highly degraded states become very stable, because of two reasons: (i) they have already lost a lot of soil and vegetation (they cannot continue degrading), and (ii) they are very difficult to recover. In a context of global change, where extreme weather events will be increasingly frequent, it is essential that we design management and/or restoration strategies that strengthen the resilience and foster the stability of our ecosystems.

Ball-cup scheme showing different resilience attributes of alternative states. Source: López et al. (2022), Applied Vegetation Science

This is a plain language summary of the paper by López et al. published in Applied Vegetation Science ( The post was prepared by Dardo López & Laura Cavallero.