Specialist Group Leader:
Specialist Group Coordinator
The Grasslands Specialist Group consists of members that have an interest in the conservation of temperate grasslands around the world through promoting land preservation, grassland friendly policies on land use, and sustainable management efforts. We are range ecologists, botanists, ornithologists, mammalogists, conservation practitioners, and private land owners. We volunteer our time and dedicate our enthusiasm to bring us closer to achieving our goals.
The Grasslands Specialist Group has placed priority on improving the level of conservation and protection for temperate grasslands. Covering ~8% (~9 mill. km2) of total global land cover, grasslands were once home to some of the largest assemblages of wildlife the earth has ever known. Today these grasslands are considered the most altered terrestrial ecosystem on the planet and are recognized as the most endangered ecosystem on most continents. Only a small percentage (4.5%) of this vast area is protected, not enough to guarantee the survival of the herds of wild ungulates that depend on them, or provide essential ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, and soil erosion control.
Temperate grasslands have been cradling the needs of humans for millennia however conversion for agriculture, fragmentation, development, and chronic overgrazing have severely degraded the natural ecosystem. In response, the Grasslands Specialist Group launched the Temperate Grasslands Conservation Initiative (TGCI) in 2008 to develop a global strategy and regional approaches to improving the level of conservation and protection for this biome.
Since the inception of the Grasslands Specialists Group and after nearly 20 years serving as the Chair, Bill Henwood has decided it was time to pass the torch on. Kirk Olson has been selected to take over the role of Chair. Bill will remain actively involved in a support and advisory role and his enthusiasm and advocacy for the conservation of temperate grasslands around the world remains.
To reverse the trend of biodiversity loss in the grasslands biome.
We will achieve this mission by 1) identifying and creating new protected areas that conserve and protect areas of special importance for biodiversity, ecosystem services and sustainable use, consistent with the principles as outlined in Aichi Target 11; and 2) encouraging the development of policies that prevent conversion of grassland for agriculture and maintain permeability across open grasslands as outlined in Aichi Targets 5, and11.
- Raise awareness about the need for increased conservation and protection of temperate grasslands.
- Develop improved communications and collaboration among government and non-government organizations, indigenous people, funding agencies and the public towards conservation of healthy grasslands.
- Identify, research and pursue opportunities for landscape scale conservation and protection integrating conservation with sustainable use.
- Collaborate with a range of stakeholders towards increased conservation and protection in the other more fragmented regions on both private and public land.
- Pursue closer relationships with other initiatives targeting drylands, traditional pastoralists and indigenous peoples and endangered wildlife, especially migratory species.
The Temperate Grasslands Conservation Initiative (TGCI)
The TGCI strives to meet Target 11 of the Convention on Biodiversity’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets. This calls for 17% protection of terrestrial lands to be protected by 2020. The comprehensive presentation of Target 11 suggests that only a modest increase in terrestrial protected areas is required for the 17% target to be met globally, and that focus needs to be placed on such issues as management effectiveness, good governance, equity, the retention of ecological services and connectivity. However, for temperate grasslands the current short fall in area under protected status suggests the priority need is for land dedications that create opportunities for the conservation and protection of significant areas of the biome that are of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Thus the TGCI’s role will remain focused on the identification and facilitation of opportunities to create new protected areas and other forms of conservation management regimes in the temperate grasslands biome. Simultaneously with area dedications, provisions for management effectiveness, good governance, equity, connectivity and other important parameters for an area will be developed and incorporated into the management regime.
The TGCI prioritizes the conservation and protection of grasslands at the landscape scale in locations where opportunities still exist to place under protection grasslands such as the expansive grasslands in central and eastern Asia. Such a course would suggest a strong reliance on IUCN Categories V and VI, integrating sustainable use and conservation and promoting such concepts as Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs) as legitimate and recognized forms of protected areas.
Secondarily the TGCI will continue to support a wide range of other efforts on both public and private land in the temperate grassland regions around the world for the continued enhancement of the conservation and protection of this biome.
How to get involved
Membership into the Grasslands Specialist Group is open to all interested and qualified people who want to actively engage in expanding the conservation of grasslands. Please contact the Grasslands Specialist Group Coordinator or the Chair of the Grasslands Specialist Group at the emails shown on this website to express your interest in participating.
The TGCI is working through action groups in the following priority regions:
- Prairie, intermontane and desert steppe grasslands of North America
- Pampas and campos grasslands, high elevation Central and Northern Andean paramo grasslands and the Patagonia steppe in South America
- Steppes of Eastern Europe
- Steppes of the Black Sea -Kazakh
- Daurian Steppes of East Asia (Mongolia, China, Russia)
- Veldt of southern Africa and high elevation grasslands of tropical eastern Africa
- Lowland grasslands of southeastern Australia
- Tussock grasslands of New Zealand
- High Elevation grasslands on the Tibetan Plateau
If you are resident in or have expertise in one of these areas you can identify your willingness to work on a regional committee. You will be put in touch with the regional committee chair for follow up.
- Global Grasslands Poster, 2014
- Towards a conservation strategy for the World's temperate grasslands outlines our global strategy and four regional action plans. Building on this strategy regional action plans have been developed for the Northern Great Plains of North America, the various grassland biomes of South America, the Kazakh Steppe and the transboundary Daurian Steppe and Amur River Basin of Eastern Mongolia, Russia and China. Additional background documents have also been written to support this strategic approach.
- Temperate Indigenous Grasslands Gains in South Africa: Lessons being learned in a developing country: PARKS 20.1 Carbutt & Martindale (2014)
- World Grasslands and Biodiversity Patterns, 2010: Report and Appendix B.: Classification Descriptions and Details of Species Richness Information
- Temperate Grasslands Strategy Paper 2010
- What are global temperate grasslands worth? A case for their protection. (2009)
- The report Life in a Working Landscape: Towards a Conservation Strategy for the World's Temperate Grasslands is a record of the discussions and outcomes of the Hohhot workshop. This workshop culminated in the adoption of a consensus statement known as the Hohhot Declaration, which stands as a call to action to protect the world's indigenous temperate grasslands.
- 1st South American Wokshop for the World Temperate Grasslands Conservation Initiative: defining the South American Strategy (2008)
- Temperate Grasslands Workshop Report in Spanish
- Compendium of Regional Templates on the Status of Temperate Grasslands Conservation and Protection (2008)
- Life in a Working Landscape: Towards a Conservation Strategy for the World's Temperate Grasslands (2008)
- Map of the World’s Temperate Grasslands
- Hohhot Declaration
- Grasslands Declaration at Bariloche
- WCC 2012 Grasslands Motion