Dryland Ecosystems and Societies is an introductory, online graduate level course that addresses the question: Can important and desirable, interacting biophysical and social/cultural systems be sustained in the drylands of African for this and future generations as they are impacted by changes occurring in the modern world? Among these changes are: losses biological diversity, human population growth, changing climate, increased demand for natural resources, changing social and political structures and technology and transportation. All of these changes profoundly influence the resilience, sustainability food security, and natrual resource secutity in the drylands of Africa and the world.
Dryland Ecosystems and Societies will concentrate on the ecology, socio-cultural, and economics of extensive pastoral systems in arid and semiarid regions of East Africa. Many comparisons will be made with arid and semi-arid grazingland systems elsewhere such as Mongolia, Nepal, Australia and the United States. The basic biophysical and social sciences necessary to evaluate the resilience and sustainability of these ecosystems and societies will be presented. Students will encounter a holistic view of ecosystems and societies at pertinent spatial and temporal scales, evaluate the forces acting to change the structure and functioning of pastoral ecosystems and societies, and forecast probable responses of the systems to those forces. A central theme of this course will be evaluating the potential for food and natural resource security while maintaining cultural values of human communities and the integrity of the ecosystems upon which those human communities depend.