Intellectual merit: Ecological and economic processes connect people through time and over space, producing local environmental and social but also far-reaching impacts, a process sometimes called telecoupling. Overgrazing is a classic example of a commons problem that leads to an inter-temporal externality, in which benefits and costs are received and paid by different people at different points in time in more or less the same location. However, ecological processes linked to excessive grazing such as locust outbreaks can potentially generate spatial externalities, imposing costs on people distant from the location of the overgrazing. This proposal builds on our prior research in northeast China that demonstrated excessive livestock grazing promotes migratory locust outbreaks by lowering plant nitrogen content. This prior research suggests that excessive grazing depletes soil nitrogen, yielding lower quality forage for livestock, an inter-temporal externality, but also stimulates locust outbreaks and increases the propensity for those outbreaks to form migratory swarms, thereby generating a spatial externality. We propose to investigate how ecological interactions at one site interact with market forces and ecological dynamics to alter human behavior at distant sites and future times. Specifically, we propose to investigate the interactions among human behavior, market forces, and ecological systems in situations in which human decision to overstock and overgraze rangeland alter plant nutrient content, potentially producing outbreaks of agriculturally-damaging locusts. Furthermore these locust outbreaks can create forage shortages affect the supply of livestock and feedback into the market, sending price signals to distant producers to alter production decisions and behaviors. We propose to research the feedbacks among locusts, livestock, nutrients and people in China, Senegal, and Australia. Livestock production is an important livelihood source for rural communities in each, and each is also home to a locust closely-related to our China study species and shows the same pattern: locust outbreaks occur on degraded livestock pastures. Further, these regions employ three unique ways of allocating property rights over grazing, and allow the opportunity to investigate the our overarching research questions: (1) How do insect-nutrient relations and livestock grazing strategies interact to affect food prices, food security, and rangeland degradation? (2) How do property rights regimes affect the adaptive capacity of societies to respond to the linkages between overgrazing and locust outbreaks? Broader Impacts: Locust outbreaks can have devastating effects on food security, impacting crop and livestock yields. Our studies will test whether overgrazing is a general cause of locust outbreaks, and investigate how market forces and information transfer can either exacerbate or ameliorate the spatial externalities associated with overgrazing induced locust swarms. Our results will be translated directly into management and policy recommendations through our collaborations with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Plant Protection Agency in Senegal (DPV), Australian Plague Locust Commission (APLC), Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Chinese Grassland Society. In addition, we will develop a multi-media outreach program that will connect K-12 students and teachers, collaborators, local community members near field sites, and other stakeholders through print material, film, and online interactive activities. This project will fund>5 undergraduate researchers, including at least one international exchange, and two PhD students; these trainees will be recruited to enhance diversity in scientists and will be mentored in award-winning labs.
|Effective start/end date||9/15/13 → 8/31/19|
- NSF: Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO): $955,001.00