The steppes of the Northern Hemisphere are among the largest terrestrial biomes, supporting a rich flora and fauna, and providing invaluable ecosystem services. Holarctic steppes are the homeland of millions of humans; meat, milk, wool, grain, and a range of other agricultural products and goods come from these regions. There are also less material values; steppes are sources of cultural symbols and spiritual experience; and they are at the heart of many civilizations in Eurasia and North America.
Today, most of the Northern Hemisphere’s grasslands are already lost; virgin steppes were converted to crop lands, settlements, mining sites, industrial areas, etc. The few remnants of these grasslands are under the pressure of livestock grazing and other agricultural use. Levels of human impact differ between regions such as the Central Plains of North America and Central Asia, but pressure still is generally high. For that reason, IUCN has recognized temperate grasslands as one of the most threatened biomes of all.
Global climate change as well as agricultural land degradation and reduction of productivity are aggravating the losses of steppe ecosystems, leading to deteriorating livelihoods of millions of people.
The IUCN/CEM’s "Holarctic Steppes" Specialist Group (HS SG) aims at an improved management of ecosystems such as:
- Forest-steppes of plains and mountain regions
- Temperate steppes at all elevations
- Temperate and subtropical prairies
- Semi-arid grasslands surrounding the dry lands of Northern Hemisphere
- West- and Central-European extra-zonal and secondary steppes
- Agricultural lands with importance for steppe biodiversity
The main goal of HS SG is to improve management and conservation of steppe ecosystems, and to harmonize this with the needs of the human society ("Golden Steppe Chain Network") based on the Nature-based Solutions principles. Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are defined by IUCN as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”.
Therefore, we seek to raise awareness on wise use of steppe ecosystem worldwide, and to mainstream this in both international and national conservation agendas.
If you are not yet a member of CEM but would like to work in the main areas of the HSTG, please go to our membership application page here. If you are a member of CEM and are interested in the activities of the HS SG, please contact the Specialist Group Lead.