Story | 19 Jan, 2010

Towards a conservation strategy for the world's temperate grasslands

Temperate grasslands are one of the world’s great biomes. However, after cradling human needs for centuries, indigenous temperate grasslands are now the most altered and endangered ecosystem on the planet. Indigenous temperate grasslands occur on every continent (except Antarctica) and occupy about 8% of the earth’s terrestrial surface. Of this, only 5% is currently protected within the global system of protected areas.

Once home to some of the world’s greatest assemblages of wildlife (for example, North American bison, Argentina’s pampas deer and Asia’s saiga antelope), the remaining intact indigenous grasslands now support only remnant populations. More than half of all temperate grasslands have been converted for crop production, forest plantations, urbanization and other land uses such as energy and mining development. Much of the remainder is subject to intensive grazing. These practices have led and are continuing to lead to habitat loss, declining biodiversity, desertification and fragmentation. In addition, the specter of climate change is of ever-increasing concern.

It is essential that we increase the level of conservation and protection of temperate grasslands, and minimize the threats to these important landscapes, if we are to ensure their future health and ecological viability. Although the past few decades have seen impressive gains in the protection of nature in tropical rainforests, coral reefs and mountain landscapes, temperate grasslands have not been a visible part of the global conservation agenda. The level of communications and international cooperation that exists for many other biomes simply has not been present for temperate grasslands.

The Temperate Grasslands Conservation Initiative (TGCI) has been created to fill this gap, to serve as the center point for international communications and collaboration for the improved conservation and protection of the world’s indigenous temperate grasslands. Through facilitating the development of a global strategy and regional action plans, the TGCI’s goal is to double the current level of protection for these grasslands by 2014 and promote sustainable land use practices throughout the biome.

The situation is urgent and the message is clear – temperate grasslands need our help. Supported by a strong international network of grassland professionals, the Temperate Grassland Conservation Initiative is well positioned to address this challenge. This brochure outlines specific project details and funding requirements to achieve success.