Grasslands are unique ecosystems on Earth. They thrive in places with little to no rain, limited water availability and periodic episodes of fire. Often seen as quintessential landscapes across Africa, South America, Europe and Australia, grasslands have been supporting critical biodiversity and food security, especially for communities raising and grazing local livestock in water-stressed regions.Buy now
Investing in grassland protection
Today, grasslands are under immense pressure. The store of organic matter (like dead roots and leaves), nutrients and carbon in grassland soil is being depleted by long periods of drought and frequent fires. Humans are also converting grasslands for agriculture, infrastructure development, overgrazing for the beef industry, and illegally killing keystone wildlife like African elephants and prairie dogs. These activities destroy soil health and alter the structure of grassland ecosystems - impacting animals, food security and the climate.
Sustainable management of grasslands is essential to maintain the complex diversity of wildlife, food production and carbon storage. Since they are considered less important than ecosystems like forests, grassland conservation and management have long suffered from inaction despite storing roughly 12% of terrestrial carbon stocks.
Losing our grasslands would be devastating for wildlife and the nutrient cycling that sustains our agriculture. Acting now is essential to stop grasslands from destruction and restore those that have been degraded.
The numbers speak for themselves
CO2 emissions avoided
Endangered species protected
How can businesses have the most impact?
Many of the world’s grasslands are in poor condition, therefore businesses can have the most impact by investing in projects that reverse this degradation and protect grasslands by working with the communities living there. Importantly, businesses should be mindful of investing in projects that plant trees on natural grassland ecosystems.
Not all land is meant to be forested and planting in grasslands can reduce carbon storage and increase biodiversity loss. This is different to creating agroforestry and silvopasture systems for agriculture. In these cases, careful tree species selection and planting methods can increase soil health and create important corridors for wildlife to move through farmed landscapes.
Roughly 50% of temperate grasslands and 16% of tropical grasslands are degraded, with only 1% of native tallgrass species currently in the world today. With increasing urbanisation, soon, they face risks from conversion for human and agricultural use. Investing in projects that are taking action will not only protect the homes of large animal species but will also sustain cultural and livelihood sources for the local communities that have lived alongside grasslands for centuries.
Grassland Protection Case Study
The Pastures, Conservation and Climate Action project is community-driven, working with nomadic herders in Mongolia to improve livelihoods, restore biodiversity and sequester carbon into the mountain and steppe soil. The territories of Hongor Ovoo heseg, Ikh Tamir soum and Arkhangai aimag, also include globally important heritage for biodiversity. Over 100 nomadic families are supported by the national NGO, Mongolian Society for Rangeland Management, to improve their land and animal herding practices, avoiding overgrazing and soil erosion.
The rangelands have become increasingly degraded by large livestock numbers and households with low income levels. Working with the communities to change grazing management is restoring critical ecosystem services, securing water, food security and diversifying livelihoods. Importantly, the project has developed agreements that ensure the poorest and most vulnerable people will have continued access to these resources into the future. This project is the first of its kind in Mongolia, and sets a precedent for rangeland and conservation policy across the country.
Where grasslands have been destroyed, actions to restore the grasslands can bring back wildlife and ecosystem services. Degraded grasslands can be restored by preventing intentional fire hazards, educating local communities on how to avoid livestock overgrazing, mandating crop rotations in grassland areas converted to agriculture, promoting organic farming, decreasing grazing pressures and preventing woody encroachment by reintroducing keystone species, without whom ecosystems struggle to remain healthy and survive.