Web Ecology (Nov 2022)

The BIODESERT survey: assessing the impacts of grazing on the structure and functioning of global drylands

  • F. T. Maestre,
  • F. T. Maestre,
  • D. J. Eldridge,
  • N. Gross,
  • Y. Le Bagousse-Pinguet,
  • H. Saiz,
  • B. Gozalo,
  • V. Ochoa,
  • J. J. Gaitán,
  • J. J. Gaitán,
  • J. J. Gaitán

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 22
pp. 75 – 96


Read online

Grazing by domestic livestock is both the main land use across drylands worldwide and a major desertification and global change driver. The ecological consequences of this key human activity have been studied for decades, and there is a wealth of information on its impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem processes. However, most field assessments of the ecological impacts of grazing on drylands conducted to date have been carried out at local or regional scales and have focused on single ecosystem attributes (e.g., plant productivity) or particular taxa (mainly aboveground, e.g., plants). Here we introduce the BIODESERT survey, the first systematic field survey devoted to evaluating the joint impacts of grazing by domestic livestock and climate on the structure and functioning of dryland ecosystems worldwide. This collaborative global survey was carried out between 2016 and 2019 and has involved the collection of field data and plant, biocrust, and soil samples from a total of 326 45 m × 45 m plots from 98 sites located in 25 countries from 6 continents. Here we describe the major characteristics and the field protocols used in this survey. We also introduce the organizational aspects followed, as these can be helpful to everyone wishing to establish a global collaborative network of researchers. The BIODESERT survey provides baseline data to assess the current status of dryland rangelands worldwide and the impacts of grazing on these key ecosystems, and it constitutes a good example of the power of collaborative research networks to study the ecology of our planet using much-needed field data.