Humans play major roles in shaping and transforming the ecology of Earth. Unlike natural drivers of ecosystem change, which are erratic and unpredictable, human intervention in ecosystems generally involves planning and management, but often results in detrimental outcomes. Using model studies and aerial-image analysis, we argue that the design of a successful human intervention form calls for the identification of the self-organization modes that drive ecosystem change, and for studying their dynamics. We demonstrate this approach with two examples: grazing management in drought-prone ecosystems, and rehabilitation of degraded vegetation by water harvesting. We show that grazing can increase the resilience to droughts, rather than imposing an additional stress, if managed in a spatially non-uniform manner, and that fragmental restoration along contour bunds is more resilient than the common practice of continuous restoration in vegetation stripes. We conclude by discussing the need for additional studies of self-organization modes and their dynamics.
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Copyright: © 2021 Zelnik et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.