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Dryland Ecohydrology in the Anthropocene: Taking Stock of Human–Ecological Interactions

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Abstract

Drylands have been radically through transformed forces set in motion by humans – including agricultural conversion, overgrazing, and invasion by non-native plants. Relatively new global change drivers will ensure that drylands will continue their transformation. In this review, we discuss recent progress in understanding how global climate and land cover changes are affecting the ecohydrology of drylands, and we highlight some challenges faced by the research community. We argue that an imperative for dryland ecohydrologists is to not only work to better understand and anticipate global changes, but to devise strategies for adapting to and, where possible, mitigating the effects of these changes. The fundamental challenge we face is how to ensure clean water and adequate food for humanity while at the same time maintaining the Earth’s life-support systems. Moreover, we suggest that scientific efforts and social policy can – and indeed must – become more strongly linked. The ecological and earth science communities benefit from interactions with social scientists, and social policy made without consideration of the long-term impacts on dryland processes can jeopardize the sustainability of natural resources.

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