World Commission on Protected Areas

Temperate Grasslands

The IUCN WCPA Temperate Grasslands Specialist Group has placed priority on improving the level of conservation and protection for temperate grasslands
Rolling grasslands

Specialist Group Co-Chairs

Kirk A. Olson
Kirk Olson

Dr. Bruce K. Downie
Bruce Downie

The Temperate Grasslands Specialist Group consists of members that have an interest in the conservation of temperate grasslands around the world through promoting land preservation, grassland friendly policies on land use, and sustainable management efforts.  We are range ecologists, botanists, ornithologists, mammalogists, conservation practitioners, and private land owners.  We volunteer our time and dedicate our enthusiasm to bring us closer to achieving our goals. 

The Temperate Grasslands Specialist Group has placed priority on improving the level of conservation and protection for temperate grasslands. Covering ~8% (~9 mill. km2) of total global land cover, grasslands were once home to some of the largest assemblages of wildlife the earth has ever known. Today these grasslands are considered the most altered terrestrial ecosystem on the planet and are recognized as the most endangered ecosystem on most continents. Only a small percentage (4.5%) of this vast area is protected, not enough to guarantee the survival of the herds of wild ungulates that depend on them, or provide essential ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, and soil erosion control.

Temperate grasslands have been cradling the needs of humans for millennia however conversion for agriculture, fragmentation, development, and chronic overgrazing have severely degraded the natural ecosystem. In response, the Temperate Grasslands Specialist Group launched the Temperate Grasslands Conservation Initiative (TGCI) in 2008 to develop a global strategy and regional approaches to improving the level of conservation and protection for this biome.

What's new

Since the inception of the Temperate Grasslands Specialists Group and after nearly 20 years serving as the Chair, Bill Henwood has decided it was time to pass the torch on.  Kirk Olson has been selected to take over the role of Chair.  Bill will remain actively involved in a support and advisory role and his enthusiasm and advocacy for the conservation of temperate grasslands around the world remains. 

If you would like to become a member of the group or want to learn more about how you can get involved, please contact the Chair, Kirk Olson or the Coordinator, Bruce Downie.

Our Mission:

To reverse the trend of biodiversity loss in the grasslands biome. 

We will achieve this mission by 1) identifying and creating new protected areas that conserve and protect areas of special importance for biodiversity, ecosystem services and sustainable use, consistent with the principles as outlined in Aichi Target 11; and 2) encouraging the development of policies that prevent conversion of grassland for agriculture and maintain permeability across open grasslands as outlined in Aichi Targets 5, and11.

Our Objectives: 

  • Raise awareness about the need for increased conservation and protection of temperate grasslands.
  • Develop improved communications and collaboration among government and non-government organizations, indigenous people, funding agencies and the public towards conservation of healthy grasslands.
  • Identify, research and pursue opportunities for landscape scale conservation and protection integrating conservation with sustainable use.
  • Collaborate with a range of stakeholders towards increased conservation and protection in the other more fragmented regions on both private and public land.
  • Pursue closer relationships with other initiatives targeting drylands, traditional pastoralists and indigenous peoples and endangered wildlife, especially migratory species.

The Temperate Grasslands Conservation Initiative (TGCI)

The TGCI strives to meet Target 11 of the Convention on Biodiversity’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets.  This calls for 17% protection of terrestrial lands to be protected by 2020.  The comprehensive presentation of Target 11 suggests that only a modest increase in terrestrial protected areas is required for the 17% target to be met globally, and that focus needs to be placed on such issues as management effectiveness, good governance, equity, the retention of ecological services and connectivity.  However, for temperate grasslands the current short fall in area under protected status suggests the priority need is for land dedications that create opportunities for the conservation and protection of significant areas of the biome that are of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Thus the TGCI’s role will remain focused on the identification and facilitation of opportunities to create new protected areas and other forms of conservation management regimes in the temperate grasslands biome.  Simultaneously with area dedications, provisions for management effectiveness, good governance, equity, connectivity and other important parameters for an area will be developed and incorporated into the management regime.

The TGCI prioritizes the conservation and protection of grasslands at the landscape scale in locations where opportunities still exist to place under protection grasslands such as the expansive grasslands in central and eastern Asia.  Such a course would suggest a strong reliance on IUCN Categories V and VI, integrating sustainable use and conservation and promoting such concepts as Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs) as legitimate and recognized forms of protected areas.

Secondarily the TGCI will continue to support a wide range of other efforts on both public and private land in the temperate grassland regions around the world for the continued enhancement of the conservation and protection of this biome. 

How to get involved

Membership into the Temperate Grasslands Specialist Group is open to all interested and qualified people who want to actively engage in expanding the conservation of grasslands. Please contact the Grasslands Specialist Group Coordinator or the Chair of the Temperate Grasslands Specialist Group at the emails shown on this website to express your interest in participating.

The TGCI is working through action groups in the following priority regions:

  • Prairie, intermontane and desert steppe grasslands of North America
  • Pampas and campos grasslands, high elevation Central and Northern Andean paramo grasslands and the Patagonia steppe in South America
  • Steppes of Eastern Europe
  • Steppes of the Black Sea -Kazakh
  • Daurian Steppes of East Asia (Mongolia, China, Russia)
  • Veldt of southern Africa and high elevation grasslands of tropical eastern Africa
  • Lowland grasslands of southeastern Australia
  • Tussock grasslands of New Zealand
  • High Elevation grasslands on the Tibetan Plateau

If you are resident in or have expertise in one of these areas you can identify your willingness to work on a regional committee.  You will be put in touch with the regional committee chair for follow up.

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