From Eurasia and Patagonia to Africa and Australia, shrublands, grasslands, and savannahs are among the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. These ecosystems are key components of rangelands used by pastoralists for extensive livestock production. They are also home to iconic fauna from lions and rhinoceros to giant anteaters and wallabies, as well as key bird and insect species, making them a conservation priority and a tourist draw. They are where humans evolved millions of years ago.
We are degrading our shrublands, grasslands, and savannahs through over-exploitation and poor management. Productivity hotspots like areas along rivers where nutrients and access to water are high are being converted to cropland, leaving behind the less productive, dry, and nutrient-poor areas. These are now more difficult to use on their own. Too much grazing and poor management can leave soil exposed to erosion and allow shrubs and alien species to invade at speed, displacing native vegetation. Conflicts between wildlife and humans increase as these areas are encroached upon.
Appropriate restoration of these areas is vital and there are plenty of good practices to learn from. Action to help degraded shrublands, grasslands, and savannahs rebound includes clearing woody vegetation and re-seeding native grasses. Eradicated flora and fauna can be re-introduced and protected from predation and hunting until they are established. Tree planting needs to be done with care following the natural make-up of these ecosystems and preserving natural habitats for species such as grassland-loving birds.
Restoring shrublands, grasslands and savannahs means working with those using the land – pastoralists or others. The extraction of resources such as water and wood, wildlife, minerals, or non-timber forest products, needs to remain sustainable. Strengthening governance systems, such as secure tenure and participatory rangeland management is equally important.
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