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Osvaldo Sala

Osvaldo Sala

Founding Director, Global Drylands Center


School of Life Sciences
Arizona State University
PO Box 874501
Tempe, AZ 85287-4501


  • Distinguished Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
  • Founding Director, Global Drylands Center
  • Julie A. Wrigley Chair in Life Sciences and Sustainability
  • Regents' Professor, School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Foundation Professor
  • Affiliated Faculty, Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability


Osvaldo Sala joined Arizona State University as a Wrigley Professor in the School of Sustainability in August 2010. As president of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment and a coordinating lead author of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Sala is an international leader in ecological science and global environmental policy.

Sala has explored several topics throughout his career including water controls on carbon and nitrogen dynamics in arid and semi-arid ecosystems, the consequences of changes in biodiversity on the functioning of ecosystems, and the development of biodiversity scenarios for the next 50 years. He is particularly interested in working with scenarios as a way of simplifying, understanding, and communicating the complex relationships that emerge from the study of social-ecological systems. While pursuing all these different questions, he used different tools from direct observations, manipulative field experiments, to simulation modeling. His work encompasses a broad range of scales from the global to specific regions. He has worked in the Patagonian steppe, annual grasslands of California, steppes of Colorado and deserts of Southern Africa and currently he has experiments in the Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico. His work is reflected in more than 140 peer-reviewed publications and several co-authored books.

Sala has served as editor of Global Change Biology, the president of the Argentinean Society of Ecology, and a member of the governing board of the Ecological Society of America. Osvaldo Sala is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Argentinean National Academy of Sciences, and the Argentinean National Academy of Physical and Natural Sciences.


  • PhD, Ecology, Colorado State University, 1982
  • MS, Ecology, Colorado State University, 1979
  • BS, Agriculture, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1973


External Links

Journal Articles

In Press

Apodaca, M., J. McInerney, O. E. Sala, L. Katinas and J. Crisci. A concept map of evolutionary biology to promote meaningful learning in biology. American Biology Teacher

Corman, J. R., S. L. Collins, E. M. Cook, X. Dong, L. A. Gherardi, N. B. Grimm, R. L. Hale, T. Liu, J. Ramos, L. G. Reichmann and O. E. Sala. Foundations and frontiers of ecosystem science: Legacy of a classic paper (Odum 1969). Ecosystems


Gherardi, L. A. and O. E. Sala. 2018. Effect of interannual precipitation variability on dryland productivity: A global synthesis. Global Change Biology 25(1):269-276. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14480. (link )

McKenna, O. P. and O. E. Sala. 2018. Groundwater recharge in desert playas: Current rates and future effects of climate change. Environmental Research Letters 13(1):014025. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa9eb6. (link )

McKenna, O. P. and O. E. Sala. 2018. Playa-wetlands effects on dryland biogeochemistry: Space and time interactions. Journal of Geophysical Research Biogeosciences 123(6):1879-1887. DOI: 10.1029/2017JG004176. (link )

Munson, S., S. C. Reed, J. Penuelas, N. G. McDowell and O. E. Sala. 2018. Ecosystem thresholds, tipping points, and critical transitions. New Phytologist Trust 218(4):1315-1317. DOI: 10.1111/nph.15145. (link )

Okin, G. S., O. E. Sala, E. R. Vivoni, J. Zhang and A. Bhattachan. 2018. The interactive role of wind and water in functioning of drylands: What does the future hold?. BioScience 68(9):670-677. DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biy067. (link )

Peters, D. P., N. D. Burruss, L. L. Rodriguez, D. S. McVey, E. H. Elias, A. M. Pelzel-McCluskey, J. D. Derner, T. S. Schrader, J. Yao, S. J. Pauszek, J. Lombard, S. R. Archer, B. T. Bestelmeyer, D. M. Browning, C. W. Brungard, J. L. Hatfield, N. P. Hanan, J. E. Herrick, G. S. Okin, O. E. Sala, H. Savoy and E. R. Vivoni. 2018. An integrated view of complex landscapes: A big data-model integration approach to transdisciplinary science. BioScience 68(9):653-669. DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biy069. (link )

Petrie, M. D., D. P. Peters, J. Yao, J. M. Blair, N. D. Burruss, S. L. Collins, J. D. Derner, L. A. Gherardi, J. R. Hendrickson, O. E. Sala, P. J. Starks and J. L. Steiner. 2018. Regional grassland productivity responses to precipitation during multiyear above- and below-average rainfall periods. Global Change Biology 24(5):1935-1951. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14024. (link )


Flombaum, P., L. Yahdjian and O. E. Sala. 2017. Global-change drivers of ecosystem functioning modulated by natural variability and saturating responses. Global Change Biology 23(2):503-511. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13441. (link )

Franco, A., M. A. Knox, W. S. Andriuzzi, C. M. de Tomasel, O. E. Sala and D. H. Wall. 2017. Nematode exclusion and recovery in experimental soil microcosms. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 108(May):78-83. DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2017.02.001. (link )

Knapp, A. K., M. L. Avolio, C. Beier, C. J. Carroll, S. L. Collins, J. S. Dukes, L. H. Fraser, R. J. Griffin-Nolan, D. L. Hoover, A. Jentsch, M. E. Loik, R. P. Phillips, A. K. Post, O. E. Sala, I. J. Slette, L. Yahdjian and M. D. Smith. 2017. Pushing precipitation to the extremes in distributed experiments: Recommendations for simulating wet and dry years. Global Change Biology 23(51774-1782):. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13504. (link )

Wilcox, K. R., A. T. Tredennick, S. E. Koerner, E. Grman, L. M. Hallett, M. L. Avolio, K. J. La Pierre, G. R. Houseman, F. Isbell, D. S. Johnson, J. M. Alatalo, A. H. Baldwin, E. W. Bork, E. H. Boughton, W. D. Bowman, A. J. Britton, J. F. Cahill Jr, S. L. Collins, G. Du, A. Eskelinen, L. Gough, A. Jentsch, C. Kern, K. Klanderud, A. K. Knapp, J. Kreyling, Y. Luo, J. R. McLaren, P. Megonigal, V. G. Onipchenko, J. Prevey, J. N. Price, C. H. Robinson, O. E. Sala, M. D. Smith, N. A. Soudzilovskaia, L. Souza, D. Tilman, S. R. White, Z. Xu, L. Yahdjian, Q. Yu, P. Zhang and Y. Zhang. 2017. Asynchrony among local communities stabilizes ecosystem function of meta-communities. Ecology Letters 20(12):1534-1545. DOI: 10.1111/ele.12861. (link )


Estiarte, M., S. Vicca, J. Penuelas, M. Bahn, C. Beier, B. A. Emmett, P. A. Fay, P. J. Hanson, R. Hasibeder, J. Kigel, G. Kroel-Dulay, K. Steenberg Larsen, E. Lellei-Kovacs, J. Limousin, R. Ogaya, J. Ourcival, S. Reinsch, O. E. Sala, I. Kappel Schmidt, M. Sternberg, K. Tielborger, A. Tietema and I. A. Janssens. 2016. Few multiyear precipitation-reduction experiments find a shift in the productivity-precipitation relationship. Global Change Biology 22(7):2570–2581. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13269. (link )

McKenna, O. P. and O. E. Sala. 2016. Biophysical controls over concentration and depth distribution of soil organic carbon and nitrogen in desert playas. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 121(12):3019-3029. DOI: 10.1002/2016JG003545. (link )

Sala, O. E. 2016. How scientists can help the land-use conflict. BioScience 66(11):915. DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biw145. (link )


Gherardi, L. and O. E. Sala. 2015. Enhanced interannual precipitation variability increases plant functional diversity that in turn ameliorates negative impact on productivity. Ecology Letters 18(12):1293-1300. DOI: 10.1111/ele.12523. (link )

Gherardi, L. A. and O. E. Sala. 2015. Enhanced precipitation variability decreases grass- and increases shrub-productivity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 112(41):12735-12740. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1506433112. (link )

Knapp, A. K., D. L. Hoover, K. R. Wilcox, M. L. Avolio, S. E. Koerner, K. J. La Pierre, M. E. Loik, O. E. Sala and M. D. Smith. 2015. Characterizing differences in precipitation regimes of extreme wet and dry years: Implications for climate change experiments. Global Change Biology 21(7):2624-2633. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12888. (link )

Monger, C., O. E. Sala, M. C. Duniway, H. Goldfus, I. A. Meir, R. M. Poch, H. L. Throop and E. R. Vivoni. 2015. Legacy effects in linked ecological-soil-geomorphic systems of drylands. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13(1):13-19. DOI: 10.1890/140269. (link )

Peters, D. P., K. M. Havstad, S. R. Archer and O. E. Sala. 2015. Beyond desertification: New paradigms for dryland landscapes. Frotiers in Ecology and the Environment 13(1):4-12. DOI: 10.1890/140276. (link )

Sala, O. E., L. A. Gherardi and D. P. Peters. 2015. Enhanced precipitation variability effects on water losses and ecosystem functioning: Differential response of arid and mesic regions. Climate Change 131(2):213-227. DOI: 10.1007/s10584-015-1389-z. (link )

Scheffer, M., J. Bascompte, T. K. Bjordam, S. R. Carpenter, L. B. Clarke, C. Folke, P. Marquet, N. Mazzeo, M. Meerhoff, O. E. Sala and F. Westley. 2015. Dual thinking for scientists. Ecology and Society 20(2):Art. 3. DOI: 10.5751/ES-07434-200203. (link )

Vandegehuchte, M. L., Z. A. Sylvain, L. G. Reichmann, C. Milano de Tomasel, U. N. Nelson, D. H. Wall and O. E. Sala. 2015. Responses of a desert nematode community to changes in water availability. Ecosphere 6(3):1-15. DOI: 10.1890/ES14-00319.1. (link )

Yahdjian, L., O. E. Sala and K. M. Havstad. 2015. Rangeland ecosystem services: Shifting focus from supply to reconciling supply and demand. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13(1):44-51. DOI: 10.1890/140156. (link )


Anadon, J. D., O. E. Sala and F. Maestre. 2014. Climate change will increase savannas at the expense of forests and treeless vegetation in tropical and subtropical Americas. Journal of Ecology 102(6):1363-1373. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12325. (link )

Anadon, J. D., O. E. Sala, B. L. Turner II and E. M. Bennett. 2014. Effect of woody-plant encroachment on livestock production in North and South America. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111(35):12948-12953. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1320585111. (link )

Flombaum, P., O. E. Sala and E. B. Rastetter. 2014. Interactions among resource partitioning, sampling effect, and facilitation on the biodiversity effect: A modeling approach. Oecologia 174(2):559-566. DOI: 10.1007/s00442-013-2775-8. (link )

Jobbágy, E. G. and O. E. Sala. 2014. The imprint of crop choice on global nutrient needs. Environmental Research Letters 9(8):084014. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/9/8/084014. (link )

Reichmann, L. G. and O. E. Sala. 2014. Differential sensitivities of grassland structural components to changes in precipitation mediate productivity response in a desert ecosystem. Functional Ecology 28(5):1292-1298. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12265. (link )

Sala, O. E. and F. T. Maetre. 2014. Grass-woodland transitions: Determinants and consequences for ecosystem functioning and provisioning of services. Journal of Ecology 102(6):1357-1362. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12326 . (link )

Sylvain, Z. A., D. H. Wall, K. L. Cherwin, D. P. Peters, L. G. Reichmann and O. E. Sala. 2014. Soil animal responses to moisture availability are largely scale, not ecosystem dependent: Insight from a cross-site study. Global Change Biology 20(8):2631-2643. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12522. (link )

Yahdjian, L., L. A. Gherardi and O. E. Sala. 2014. Grasses have larger response than shrubs to increased nitrogen availability: A fertilization experiment in the Patagonian steppe. Journal of Arid Environments 102(Mar):17-20. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2013.11.002. (link )


Gherardi, L. A. and O. E. Sala. 2013. Automated rainfall manipulation system: A reliable and inexpensive tool for ecologists. Ecosphere 4(2):1-10. DOI: 10.1890/ES12-00371.1. (link )

Gherardi, L. A., O. E. Sala and L. Yahdjian. 2013. Preference for different inorganic nitrogen forms among plant-functional types and species of the Patagonian steppe. Oecologia 173(3):1075-1081. DOI: 10.1007/s00442-013-2687-7. (link )

Herrick, J. E., O. E. Sala and J. Karl. 2013. Land degradation and climate change: A sin of omission?. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11(6):283-283. DOI: 10.1890/1540-9295-11.6.283 . (link )

Reichmann, L. G., O. E. Sala and D. P. Peters. 2013. Precipitation legacies in desert grassland primary production occur through previous-year tiller density. Ecology 94(2):435-443. DOI: 10.1890/12-1237.1 . (link )

Reichmann, L. G., O. E. Sala and D. P. Peters. 2013. Water controls on nitrogen transformations and stocks in an arid ecosystem. Ecosphere 4(1):1-17. DOI: 10.1890/ES12-00263.1 . (link )


Sala, O. E., L. A. Gherardi, L. G. Reichmann, E. G. Jobbágy and D. P. Peters. 2012. Legacies of precipitation fluctuations on primary production: Theory and data synthesis. Philiosphical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 367(1606):3135-3144. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0347. (link )

Schwartz, M. W., J. J. Hellmann, J. M. Mclachlan, D. F. Sax, J. O. Borevitz, J. Brennan, A. E. Camacho, G. Ceballos, J. R. Clark, H. Doremus, R. Early, J. R. Etterson, D. Fielder, J. L. Gill, P. Gonzalez, N. Green, L. Hannah, D. W. Jamieson, D. Javeline, B. A. Minteer, J. Odenbaugh, S. Polasky, D. M. Richardson, T. L. Root, H. D. Safford, O. E. Sala, S. H. Schneider, A. R. Thompson, J. W. Williams, M. Velland, P. Vitt and S. Zellmer. 2012. Managed relocation: Integrating the scientific, regulatory, and ethical challenges. BioScience 62(8):732-743. DOI: 10.1525/bio.2012.62.8.6 . (link )

Throop, H. L., L. G. Reichmann, O. E. Sala and S. R. Archer. 2012. Response of dominant grass and shrub species to water manipulation: An ecophysiological basis for shrub invasion in a Chihuahuan Desert grassland. Oecologia 169(2):373-383. DOI: 10.1007/s00442-011-2217-4. (link )

Book Chapters


Sala, O. E., L. Vivanco and P. Flombaum. 2017. Grassland communities and ecosystems. Pp. 1-7 Reference Modules in Life Sciences. Elservier. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-809633-8.02201-9. (link )

Sala, O. E., L. Yahdjian, K. M. Havstad and M. R. Aguiar. 2017. Rangeland ecosystem services: Nature's supply and humans' demands. Pp. 467-489 In: Briske, D. D. ed., Rangeland Systems: Processes, Management and Challenges. Springer. ISBN: 978-3-319-46707-8. (link )


Peters, D. P., B. T. Bestelmeyer, K. M. Havstad, A. Rango, S. R. Archer, A. C. Comrie, H. R. Gimblett, L. Lopez-Hoffman, O. E. Sala, E. R. Vivoni, M. L. Brooks, J. Brown, H. C. Monger, J. H. Goldstein, G. S. Okin and C. E. Tweedie. 2013. Desertification of rangelands. Pp. 239-258 Climate Vulnrability: Understanding and Addressing Threads to Essential Resources. Vol 4. Elsevier Inc. Academic Press. ISBN: 9780123847034.

Sala, O. E., L. Vivanco and P. Flombaum. 2013. Grassland ecosystems. Pp. 1-7 In: Levin, S. A. ed., Encyclopedia of Biodiversity, 2nd Edition. Elsevier. ISBN: 978-0-12-384720-1.


Knapp, A. K., J. M. Briggs, D. L. Childers and O. E. Sala. 2007. Estimating aboveground net primary production in grassland- and herbaceous-dominated ecosystems. Pp. 27-48 In: Fahey, T. J. and A. K. Knapp eds., Principles and Standards for Measuring Primary Production (Long-Term Ecological Research Network). Oxford University Press.



Shaver, G., T. Chapin, C. Duke, A. P. Kinzig, D. P. Peters and O. E. Sala. 2007. Ecological foundations of sustainability in a constantly changing world. San Jose McEnery Conference Center. Symposium organized at the August 6-10, 2007 Ecological Restoration in a Changing World at the 92nd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America held with the Society for Ecological Restoration 18th International Conference, San Jose, CA.

Conference Papers


Brouder, S. M., F. A. DeClerck, P. S. Kettlewell, A. M. Latta, E. F. Moran, S. C. Murray, T. L. Rabaey, P. K. Riggs, J. B. Ristaino, D. Rose and O. E. Sala. 2012. IDR Team Summary 5: Design production systems for ecosystem services that improve human outcomes related to food and nutrition. In: Carpenter, S. R., A. V. Diez Roux, G. Hornberger, H. Mooney, M. G. Morgan, R. Morss, S. P. Murphy, S. Polasky, W. Reid, B. E. Rittmann and B. L. Turner II eds., Washington, DC. Interdisciplinary Research Team Summaries from 10-13 November 2011 Conference at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center,. (link )

Report Chapters


Yao, J., O. E. Sala and D. P. Peters. 2013. Cross-site studies "by design": Experiments and observations that provide new insights. Pp. 72-80 In: Peters, D. P., C. M. Laney, A. E. Lugo, S. L. Collins, C. T. Driscoll, P. M. Groffman, J. M. Grove, A. K. Knapp, T. K. Kratz, M. D. Ohman, R. B. Waide and J. Yao eds., Long-Term Trends in Ecological Systems: A Basis for Understanding Responses to Global Change. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Technical Bulletin 1931. Washington, D.C. (link )