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Brittle and nonbrittle environments

A new measure of ecosystem function, vital in understanding seasonally dry ecosystems and reversing desertification.

Why management that helps some landscapes harms others

Index of articles and links

Brittleness is a fairly new measure of ecosystem function that allows us to match land management to what each landscape needs.

jungle ruins
Prolonged rest heals nonbrittle landscapes. Jungle took over this abandoned temple in Cambodia.

Joy Livingwell
Prolonged rest desertifies brittle landscapes. Former grassland in Nevada, U.S.A. Article

The biggest difference in landscapes is how they respond to prolonged rest from disturbances such as fire and grazing:

  • Nonbrittle areas have year-round moisture. Here prolonged rest heals land.
  • Brittle areas have a dry season, whether total rainfall is low or high. Here prolonged rest causes damage.
  • Most areas lie somewhere between brittle and nonbrittle.

Management that doesn't suit the landscape is the leading cause of desertification worldwide.

Brittleness basics

Landscape brittleness--how "good" management can harm land by Joy Livingwell. Introductory overview. Includes Savory's brittleness scale, brittle/nonbrittle comparison list, and Jim Howell's new brittleness-productivity scale.

Brittleness: an introduction by Christine Allday-Bondy. Explores the difference between brittle and non-brittle environments in simple, non-technical language.

Landscape brittleness and productivity by Jim Howell. by Jim Howell. Introduces a better way of measuring brittleness that gives managers more information about what their land needs than Savory's original brittleness scale.

Brittle and Nonbrittle Environments by Thomas J. Elpel. On Wildflowers and Weeds website.

Managing brittle environments

Grassland productivity across brittle environments (slide show) by Jim Howell. Explore the differences between high- and low-production environments. Grid format makes comparisons easy. 12 slides. 62 K index page

Managing productivity in brittle grasslands (slide show) by Jim Howell. Grazing, productivity, and landscape management issues on high- and mid-rainfall tropical savannas, mild temperate steppes, and cold steppes. 18 slides. 38 K index page