Drylands are home to more than two billion people, and are the source of a large proportion of the food and fibre used around the world. Grasslands alone produce 27% and 23% of the world’s milk and meat respectively, and support more than one billion livelihoods.
The complex changes in land productivity and disruption of dryland ecosystems due to climate change will affect more than 44% of the world’s food system, contributing to food insecurity and persistent poverty. Unreliable water resources will also have a negative impact on land productivity and consequently on livelihoods.
Dryland soils store at least one third of the world’s soil organic carbon, which is important in enhancing soil structure and function, and determining soil productivity. Grasslands hold more than 10% of the terrestrial carbon and can store up to 70 tonnes/ha of soil carbon.
Grasslands, especially those dominated by perennials, can withstand conditions of high temperature and high carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations more than most other plants. These qualities mean that grasslands provide opportunities for adaptation and can continue to produce forage for grazing livestock as atmospheric CO2 concentrations and temperatures increase due to climate change.