and its landscape by studying the resources and experiences of the other. Second, although each country has a critical mass of scholars and scholarship devoted to the study of grassland ecosystems, the two scholarly communities have had relatively little contact and very limited knowledge of each other's work. Third, the manner in which scientists study ecosystems including grasslands is itself changing—away from the separate inquiries of discrete disciplines and toward an integrated, interdisciplinary, systems-oriented approach. Scientists in both countries must wrestle with the intellectually and politically difficult problem of dealing with a multitude of factors that affect relations between economic viability and a healthy environment. Finally, grasslands and other arid and semiarid lands have become an object of serious international concern. Some observers believe that human activities are responsible for converting grasslands, savannas, and other dry grazinglands into deserts. This issue is nowhere more urgent than in northern China, where population pressure and environmental sustainability have collided head-on. Likewise, concern over global climate change has focused attention on the midcontinent regions of temperate Asia and North America, where global warming may have great ecological and economic impacts. For all these reasons, this is an opportune time to engage scientists in China and the United States in a dialogue that promises to benefit the people of both countries and the cause of science everywhere.
A similar study, carried out in another part of the world, might have adopted somewhat different terminology. In North America, Australia, and elsewhere, scientists engaged in the sort of work described in this report might call their subject ''grassland ecosystems,'' "grazingland ecosystems," or "range science"—disciplines that put as much emphasis on soils, livestock and other system components as on vegetation. In China, this scientific domain has been somewhat less comprehensive and more specifically focused on plants. On the other hand, the Chinese use "grassland" to cover all types of vegetation that are exploited as forage for grazing or browsing animals, including grasses, shrubs, and trees—making this term synonymous with "grazingland" as used in the United States. Chinese grassland scientists and institutions, as they describe themselves and as described in this report, study the entire spectrum of arid and semiarid ecosystems, not just those areas dominated by grasses.
Work on this report began in the summer of 1990 with a series of meetings among Chinese, American, and other scholars who had previous experience doing research on grasslands, China, or both. Based on information obtained at these meetings, the CSCPRC staff identified the people, institutions, and regions in China that should be featured in the report, the scholars who should carry it out, the scope that the report should cover, and the process by which it should be accomplished. Because of the broad geographical distribution of grasslands and grazinglands in China and the limited resources available for the task at hand, it was decided that the report should focus