In a new two-year investigation funded by the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative, ASU scientists will study the effects of woody-plant encroachment on multiple ecosystems. They will collect data from grasslands in Kansas and New Mexico, as well as use existing, collected data.
"Is this really degradation or is it simply a change in the portfolio of services the ecosystem is providing?" asks Osvaldo Sala, professor of ecology and sustainability in ASU's School of Life Sciences and School of Sustainability. "If the second is true, there may be a shift among stakeholders who win and who lose as a result of this change."
Ecosystem services are basically the things ecosystems provide to humans such as food, wood, fiber, conservation, recreation, carbon storage and clean water. These services are often compromised when drastic environmental transformation occurs.