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The GRASS Alliance launches groundbreaking Valuing Grasslands Report

Five major environmental organizations have launched a new paper calling for urgent and ambitious action on grassland protection, restoration and management.

By: Natalie Dudinszky & Sasha Gennet

In the light of discussions aligning global objectives for Climate and Nature during COP28, the GRASS Alliance launched a Groundbreaking Report calling for urgent action on grassland protection, restoration and management.

BirdLife International, Conservation International, PlantLife International, The Nature Conservancy, and WWF jointly urge governments, investors, and businesses to acknowledge the invaluable role played by grasslands in advancing climate, biodiversity, and human development goals, and to promptly implement measures for their protection.

With this mission in mind, they collaboratively launched their discussion paper titled: ‘Valuing Grasslands: Critical Ecosystems for Nature, Climate and People’.

Across six continents, they cover 49% of global land and hold over 34% of the planet’s terrestrial soil carbon, support the livelihoods of millions of people, including indigenous communities and pastoralists, provide food for billions, are home to iconic and at-risk species and biodiversity and regulate freshwater supply and mitigate erosion.

Grasslands are very important ecosystems, not only because of their inherent role in preserving biodiversity and for their aesthetic appeal, but also for the indispensable ecosystem services they offer to both humanity and the climate.  These services include carbon storage, water retention and supply, food provision, and cultural heritage, and many other values.

These ecosystems have been consistently overlooked and undervalued, lacking the rightful recognition in the global conservation agendas. The rapid conversion and degradation of grasslands on a global scale, coupled with the continued loss of the ecosystem services they offer, have led to a spectrum of repercussions in many parts of the world – from flooding and soil storms to outbreaks of human diseases – directly impacting communities. Despite their profound importance, these ecosystems persist in being regarded as “sacrifice ecosystems,” facing escalating pressures from agribusiness sectors and international markets, adversely affecting the very people who depend on them.

“We want to make sure grasslands have their deserved place in global conservation agendas and that they are protected and restored for current and future generations, for people, birds, and all biodiversity.”

– Martin Harper, CEO, BirdLife International

Conserved and restored grasslands play a pivotal role in realizing the objectives of the Paris Agreement due to their significant capacity for carbon storage and sequestration. Moreover, the essential contributions of grasslands to biodiversity are indispensable for meeting the proposed targets outlined in the Global Biodiversity Framework. By effectively safeguarding grasslands, we simultaneously advance multiple Sustainable Development Goals, underscoring their interconnected importance in addressing global environmental and developmental challenges.

The imperative is clear: it is time to acknowledge the vital significance of grasslands and harmonize policies and priorities. By ensuring the protection of these invaluable ecosystems, we unlock their immense potential to fulfill urgent environmental and social goals. The time has come to translate recognition into action and harness the transformative power of conserved grasslands for the benefit of our planet and its inhabitants.

Flock of sheep in a nomadic camp in Arkhangai province, Mongolia. @David Santiago García

Following the conclusion of COP28, where global discussions aimed at aligning objectives for Climate and Nature transpired, we urge all stakeholders to take immediate action in safeguarding grasslands.

We invite your support for the following initiatives:

  • Inclusion of grasslands in biodiversity, climate & land degradation agreements and plans.
  • Reduction in subsidies & policies that incentivize grassland loss, degradation and afforestation.
  • Advocacy for conversion-free products & supply chains.
  • Strategic investments in the protection and restoration of grasslands, along with support for the communities that depend on them.

Together, we can champion these measures to safeguard grasslands, recognizing their critical role in achieving shared environmental and social goals.

Herd of elephants, African savannah. @Mint Images
Aguará guazú fox at Río Dulce grasslands in Argentina @Pablo Rodríguez Merkel
A young Borana woman with her goats at Borana, Ethiopia @ILRI \ Zerihun Sewunet