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Fate can be changed! Arid rangelands in a globalizing world – A complementary co-evolutionary perspective on the current ‘desert syndrome’ (JAE, Volumes 100-101, January-February 2014, Pages 52-62)

Degradation in arid rangelands is an on-going concern, as they appear to be trapped in a vicious circle of desertification–marginalization–impoverishment. Recent theoretical developments in dryland research strive to provide keys to understanding linked social-ecological systems and land management.

One approach, the desert-syndrome, depicts the socio-ecological evolution of drylands as being determined mainly by ecological factors.

A second approach, the adaptive management paradigm, acknowledges the existence of socio-ecological systems in drylands which are considered to have adapted to a given political–economic context and a given range of economic and ecological variability.

This paper proposes a conceptual framework integrating both approaches in order to point out supplementary important drivers of the socio-ecological evolution of drylands systems, especially rangelands at the global economic and political scale.

The analysis is broadly conducted from a political ecology and co-evolutionary perspectives and discusses three main factors:

(1) world-wide application of western-based paradigms in resource management and their effect on rangelands,

(2) the fossil-fuel based Green Revolution, and

(3) capitalist institutions used to regulate agricultural trade and the corresponding tools and policies.


- Rangeland SES degradation in drylands is an on-going concern and a complex problem.

- Different theoretical developments in dryland research are currently in debate.

- We integrate the desert-syndrome with the adaptive management paradigm.

- We introduced global contextual drivers from a political ecology and co-evolutionary perspectives.

- We highlight some key features and opportunities for arid rangelands.