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Grassland Ecosystems'
Conditions and Changing Capacity

Intro | Profile | Ecosystem Assessment

Condition: Fair
Capacity: Decreasing

Many grasslands today provide livestock forage and contribute to meat and milk production, but soil degradation is a mounting problem. Soil data show that grasslands soil condition ranges from lightly to moderately degraded to strongly and extremely degraded. As soil condition continues to degrade, less forage is available and livestock production from grasslands declines.

Condition: Fair
Capacity: Decreasing

Regional data for North America document marked declines in grassland bird species and classify grassland plant species in some areas as 10-20 percent nonnative.

Condition: Good
Capacity: Decreasing

Grasslands store about one-third of terrestrial ecosystems' global stock of carbon. Unlike forests, where carbon is stored primarily in vegetation, in grasslands most of the carbon stock is in the soil. Thus, the future capacity of grasslands to store carbon may decline if their soils are overgrazed, cleared through frequent cultivation and burning, and eroded.

Condition: Good
Capacity: Decreasing

People worldwide rely on grasslands for hiking, hunting, fishing, and religious or cultural activities. The economic value of recreation and tourism can be high in some grasslands, especially from safari tours and hunting. Nonetheless, as they are modified by agriculture, urbanization, and human-induced fires, grasslands are likely to lose some capacity to sustain recreational services.

Chart 1
Chart 2
Area of Grassland Ecosystems
(click on image to enlarge)
Population of Grassland Ecosystems
(click on image to enlarge)


Source note: Data are from the companion book, World Resources 2000-2001: Ecosystems and People: The Fraying Web of Life and from Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems: Agroecosystems (World Resources Institute, 2000).

For comprehensive data about the world's ecosystems and their current conditions and trends, visit EarthTrends at
Agricultural | Forests | Coastal | Grasslands | Freshwater | Urban
The Value of Ecosystems

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