© Bento Viana / WWF Brazil
GLOBAL GRASSLANDS AND SAVANNAHS INITIATIVE

 

Grasslands and savannahs represent some of the world’s richest and most diverse ecosystems. 

Grasslands and savannahs provide a home for a quarter of the world’s population and habitat for thousands of highly specialised plants and animals. Many species gather in vast numbers, graze on the varied grasses, and can be found nowhere else on Earth. The coexistence between wildlife and grasses is key to healthy ecosystems. Animal migrations regenerate the landscapes, by controlling pests, dispersing seeds and trampling invasive species. Through this partnership, grasslands and savannahs generate vital benefits for both people and nature. 

These ecosystems are essential for climate mitigation – they store carbon, locking it deep in the soil and extensive root systems. They are the source of or support many of the world’s biggest rivers and wetlands, ensure food security, support livelihoods, and are embedded in the cultural identity of millions of people.

 

What are grasslands and savannahs?

Prairies, shrublands, llanos, steppe, veld, plains, pampas, campos, grasslands, rangelands, savannahs – the variety of words used to refer to grass-dominated landscapes indicates their diversity. Sometimes these words are used broadly and collectively to include ecologically diverse biomes from temperate grasslands to deserts to alpine meadows. They first appeared millions of years ago due to extreme climate shifts and have continued to be shaped by wind, wildfire and the seasonal migration of animals. These non-forest landscapes play a critical role in a healthy planet which supports healthy people. 
GRASSLANDS AND SAVANNAHS ARE BEING LOST AT AN ALARMING RATE, THEY ARE UNDERVALUED AND OVER EXPLOITED

Conservation efforts have focused on forests, particularly in the tropics, with the impacts of deforestation widely recognised. In contrast, the pressures on other natural ecosystems like grasslands and savannahs are overlooked, despite their unique biodiversity and relevance for vital ecosystem services, like food production, water security, climate mitigation, and livelihoods. 

For centuries the fertile soils provided by natural grasslands have led to their unchecked conversion to croplands, and domestic livestock have replaced the vast herds of wild animals. Driven by an expanding global population, the transformation of our landscapes from valuable natural ecosystems to agriculture has intensified. Grasslands and savannahs represent up to 80% of the world’s agriculturally productive land and face some of the fastest rates of conversion of any biome. Both North America’s Great Plains and Brazil’s Cerrado have already lost about half of their native vegetation.   


In addition, less than 10% of our grasslands and savannahs are protected, and climate change compounds the impacts on these landscapes with many experiencing seasonal shifts, and some places like the Mongolian Steppe facing warming three times higher than the global average. The changes the conversion and degradation of these natural habitats brings about reduces their ability to store carbon, stabilise the soil, filter clean water, and generally maintain healthy habitats for wildlife and people.

Conservation must go beyond forests. We want to ensure that the value provided by neglected natural ecosystems like grasslands and savannahs is fully recognised.  Ultimately ensuring they are a priority in conservation and development efforts, so that they and their benefits  are safeguarded.

Effective protection and management of grasslands and savannahs combined with the restoration of lost and degraded habitats are essential to conserve nature, deliver against our global climate ambitions, sustain a thriving food system and support the livelihoods of the local communities who are so often the trusted guardians of our precious ecosystems. 

What we are doing

We are coming together at global and local levels to strengthen the proposition for grasslands and savannahs, building a global coalition in support of natural ecosystems, beyond forests. 

We are convening partners across sectors to align and share knowledge, to establish a new global consensus and advocate to include neglected ecosystems such as grasslands and savannahs in global conservation and climate conventions and deforestation- and conversion-free commitments. We are increasing awareness and understanding of the importance of these overlooked landscapes and driving investments in support of conserving these important non-forest natural ecosystems. 

 

Country offices prioritising these vast landscapes will look to apply relevant approaches depending on the needs of their local context:

  • Landscape protection with the aim to avoid any further natural habitat conversion
  • Sustainable management of land already in use to minimise any further negative impacts
  • Restoration of previously degraded, damaged or destroyed land to support the recovery of the ecosystem and its associated benefits.

News and updates

Rebuilding Grasslands One Square Foot at a Time

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World Wildlife Fund Joins the Walmart Foundation, Cargill, McDonald’s to Launch Million-Acre Grazing Initiative to Help Restore Grasslands, Address Climate Change

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Rhinos Make a Comeback in India’s Manas National Park

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Resources
Global Grassland & Savannahs Dialogue Platform

Bringing together organisations to collaborate on grasslands and savannahs

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© Jorge André Diehl / WWF-Brazil
GRASSLANDS AND SAVANNAHS ECOSYSTEMS

An urgent need for conservation and sustainable management. Examples of WWF’s work in grasslands and savannahs around the world.

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© Adriano Gambarini / WWF-Brazil
GLOBAL RANGELANDS ATLAS

54% of our terrestrial land is made up of grass dominated ecosystems

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© Rangelands Atlas
SOY TRADERS SCORECARD

A look a the 22 most influential soy trading companies, responsible for more than two-thirds of the global soy export

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© David Bebber / WWF-UK