Global Assessment of the Non-Equilibrium Theory of Rangelands: Revisited and Refined

Land Use Policy 70, 479-484

17 Pages Posted: 16 Dec 2017 Last revised: 16 Sep 2018

See all articles by John-Oliver Engler

John-Oliver Engler

University of Vechta

Henrik von Wehrden

Leuphana University of Lueneburg

Date Written: July 28, 2017


We re-investigate evidence for the non-equilibrium concept for rangelands using a georeferenced data base of N =83 studies published in peer-reviewed journals. Following up on a previous study by von Wehrden et al. (2012), we use their global map of rainfall variability and their method to distinguish between three different types of degradation depending on the presence or absence of water sources or key resources in the studied areas. Addressing recent discussions in the rangeland science community, we include the distinction between commercial or subsistence use as parameter in our data base. We find that zonal degradation, i.e. degradation with no presence of water or key resources, is predominantly reported for locations with a precipitation coefficient of variation below the threshold of 33%, as proposed by the non-equilibrium concept. We do not find any statistical evidence for a systematic difference between commercial and subsistence farming in terms of degradation incidence.

Keywords: Climatic Variability; Commercial Farming; Degradation; Drylands; Grazing; Rainfall; Rangeland Management; Subsistence Farming

Suggested Citation

Engler, John-Oliver and von Wehrden, Henrik, Global Assessment of the Non-Equilibrium Theory of Rangelands: Revisited and Refined (July 28, 2017). Land Use Policy 70, 479-484, Available at SSRN:

John-Oliver Engler (Contact Author)

University of Vechta ( email )

Henrik Von Wehrden

Leuphana University of Lueneburg ( email )

Scharnhorststraße 1
Lüneburg, 21335

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