Land degradation assessment through an ecosystem services lens: Integrating knowledge and methods in pastoral semi-arid systems

D. Tarrasón*, F. Ravera, M. S. Reed, A. J. Dougill, L. Gonzalez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper develops and applies an integrated and participatory methodological framework to assess land degradation in pastoral systems through an ecosystem services (ES) lens in a semi-arid region of northern Nicaragua. We initially integrated local and scientific knowledge to assess ecological changes and understand the links with ecosystem services supplied by the local grazing system. Hence, we discuss land degradation features and test a state-and-transition ecological model, that is, we developed jointly with local farmers the hypotheses to understand transitions between ecological states and these hypotheses were then evaluated through an inventory of vegetation and an assessment of soil properties and seed bank composition. The assessment reveals that shifts in ecological state do not cause permanent soil properties changes, but that at a landscape scale they can limit production, affecting local livelihoods. The framework proposed provided local farmers with relevant information and facilitated communication with researchers, enabling them to use the co-constructed knowledge to implement adaptive management strategies to improve local productive systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-213
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are very grateful to the local people from the studied area who participated actively in the study. Thank you to FAREM-Estelí researchers and particularly to Josué Urrutia for his support in botanical inventories and to Abner Rivera for their dedicated work on field and laboratory activities. We also thank three anonymous reviewers who provided useful comments. Funding for this research was provided by the Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation (ACCD). The writing of this paper was carried out in the University of Leeds and was funded by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Agency for Administration of University and Research Grants (AGAUR).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Ecological changes
  • Ecosystem services
  • Land degradation
  • Nicaragua
  • Participatory assessment
  • State-and-transition model

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