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 increasingly long periods of drought and more 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 stores of carbon than ecosystems like forests, grassland conservation and management has long suffered from inaction despite storing roughly 12% of terrestrial carbon stocks. 1,2
Losing our grasslands will be devastating for wildlife protection and the nutrient cycling that sustains our agriculture. It is important to act now to stop grasslands from destruction and restore those that have been degraded.
The Numbers speak for themselves
Want to make your business greener? Partner with Earthly and take part in our grassland protection and restoration projects to reverse climate change and build a brighter future. The stats below are from the Grasslands project in total.
Hectares sustainably managed
Reduced carbon emissions
Roughly 50% of temperate grasslands and 16% of tropical grasslands are degraded, with only 1% of native tallgrass species currently in the world today3. With increasing urbanization, soon these remaining grasslands face risks from conversion for human and agricultural use, unless action is taken today to protect them.
Protecting grasslands often needs governments, companies and local communities to work together. Global/regional grassland protection can include monitoring illegal wildlife trade, offering legal protection to grassland zones and supporting nomadic herders to gain land rights. While local actions include working with herders and farmers to reduce overgrazing from livestock and supporting ways to reduce fertilizer use that runs into grasslands and changes the properties of the soil.
Investing in projects that are taking these actions will not only protect the homes of large charismatic animals like zebras, bison, African elephants, and rhinos, but will also sustain cultural and livelihood sources for the local communities that have lived alongside grasslands for centuries.Nature-based solutions ebook
Healthy grasslands help to maintain our ground water table by improving water infiltration, slowing runoff and purifying the water seeping into our groundwater table. Their root systems also reduce soil erosion with their ability to anchor the soil with their deep root systems.
Grasslands are home to some of the most majestic animals on Earth such as zebras and antelopes, lions and cheetahs, elephants and rhinos, and while also supporting pollinator diversity like bumble bees, butterflies, and ants.
Grasslands have long supported pastoralist lifestyles of local and indigenous communities. They also hold aesthetic value and are integral to eco-tourism for recreation, picnics and excursions.
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.
Where grasslands have been destroyed, either through intensive grazing that tramples the grasses, or singular crop farming (known as a monoculture) that depletes the nutrients of the soil, actions to restore the grasslands can bring back wildlife and ecosystem services.
Depending on the driver of loss, degraded grasslands can be restored by preventing intentional fire hazards, educating local communities on how to avoid livestock overgrazing, mandating crop rotations in grassland area converted to agriculture, promoting organic farming, decreasing grazing pressures and preventing woody encroachment by reintroducing wildlife like elephants, giraffes that graze on young trees.
Returning keystone species to the land is another way to regenerate grasslands. Keystone species are the glue holding ecosystems together - without them, ecosystems struggle to remain healthy and survive. For example in Europe, the reintroduction of large, free roaming animals, like wild horses and bison, is helping to create diverse landscapes by opening up forests and shrubland. These animals break branches and debark trees, provide nutrients to the soil and disperse seeds across the landscape.Nature-based solutions ebook
Long term grassland restoration has been shown to replenish soil organic carbon, contributing to our global efforts to put carbon into the ground.
Restoring grasslands performs a natural barrier against invasive plant species growth that often encroaches on degraded grasslands.
Local community members are often employed as grassland guardians that re-establishes the historical connection between the locals with their natural landscapes, creating a lasting protective relationship between man and nature.
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.