Towards sustainable rangeland management: Livelihoods resilience in the context of social-ecological systems

Authors and Affiliations: 

Hojatollah Khedri Gharibvand1,2*, Hossein Azadi1,3, Philippe De Maeyer 1 and Frank Witlox1

1Department of Geography, Ghent University, Ghent B-9000, Belgium; E-Mail:;; (P.D.M.) ; (F. W.)
2 Faculty of Natural Resources and Geoscinces, Shahrekord University, Shahrekord, Iran
3 Economics Rural Development, Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, University of Liege, Liège 4000, Belgium.

Corresponding author: 
Hojatollah khedrigharibvand

Arid and semi-arid rangelands cover at least 10 million km2 of the earth's land surface and constitute areas ranging from desert to mountainous (highland) regions. They are characterized by low and highly variable precipitation, unpredictable rainfall patterns and unsuitable conditions for cultivation. Historically, these areas have provided varied ecosystem functions and services, supported wildlife, and have long been places for rangeland users including pastoralists and their livestock. Accordingly, rangeland users have been able to use freely the services that these ecosystems provide and adapt to changes in ways that have improved their livelihoods. In recent decades, however, people and the rangeland ecosystems on which they depend are experiencing climatic, ecological, political and socioeconomic changes. In responding to these changes and challenges the concept of sustainable rangeland management (SRM) has been emerged which is supposed to be addressed as a debatable subject related to the social-ecological systems (SESs). Today, the merit of SRM for contribution to long term sustainability of rangeland and meet livelihoods of rangeland users has been acknowledged. Furthermore, it has been asserted to approach SRM both socioeconomic (livelihoods) and ecological systems must be considered in an integrated approach. Recently, the theory of appropriate livelihood alternatives has been recognized, in which elaborated a livelihood policy framework along with livelihood alternatives and their relevant criteria. Although some supportive strategies have been acknowledged to make livelihoods more resilience, there is no a general consensus among scholars regarding a framework to assess livelihoods resilience in the context of SESs. This means that the resiliency of livelihoods is crucial to approach SRM. This paper addresses the following questions: 1) how people and rangeland ecosystems on which they depend can be maintained in long run; 2) what makes livelihood alternatives more resilience? and 3) what participatory approach can bring all system stakeholders together to solve these problem. First, we look at the appropriate livelihood alternatives developed for SRM and briefly describe them in terms of resilience thinking. This appears to be a good starting point for the development of a framework for assessing livelihoods resilience. Second, we posit that resilience thinking can respond to maintain the SESs in long run. Then, the key variables affecting livelihood resilience are addressed which has frequently been ignored in the past. Afterwards, a new participatory approach is introduced. Finally, a conceptual framework for assessing livelihoods resilience is suggested which can be employed to different situations and applied as a management tool.

Keywords: livelihood resilience, social-ecological systems, sustainable rangeland management, arid and semi-arid regions.


Grice, A. C., & Hodgkinson, K. C. (Eds.). (2002). Global rangelands: progress and prospects. CABI.

Holechek, J. L. (2013). Global trends in population, energy use and climate: implications for policy development, rangeland management and rangeland users. The Rangeland Journal, 35, 117-129.

Khedrigharibvand, H.., Azadi, H., & Witlox, F. (2015). Exploring appropriate livelihood alternatives for sustainable rangeland management. The Rangeland Journal, 37(4), 345-356.

Klein, J. A., Fernández-Giménez, M. E., Wei, H., Changqing, Y., Du Ling, D. D., and Reid, R. S. (2011). A participatory framework for building resilient social-ecological pastoral systems. In: ‘Restoring Community Connections to the Land: Building Resilience through Community-based RangelandManagement in China andMongolia’. (Ed.M. E. Fernández- Giménez.) pp. 3–36. (CABI: Wallingford, UK.).
Narjisse, H. (2000). Rangelands issues and trends in developing countries. InRangeland desertification (pp. 181-195). Springer Netherlands.
Safriel, U., Adeel, Z., Niemeijer, D., Puigdefabregas, J., White, R., Lal, R., Winslow, M., Ziedler, J., Prince, S., Archer, E., and King, C. (2005). Dryland systems. In: 'Millennium ecosystem assessment: ecosystems and human well-being: current state and trends: findings of the condition and trends working group'. Vol. 1 (Eds R. M. Hassan, R. Scholes, and N. Ash.), pp. 623-662. (Island Press: Washington., DC, USA) (

Walker, B., Holling, C. S., Carpenter, S. R., and Kinzig, A. (2004). Resilience, adaptability and transformability in social--ecological systems. Ecology and Society 9, 5.

Oral or poster: 
Poster presentation
Abstract order: