Besides providing livestock, drinking and irrigation water, and genetic
resources, grassland ecosystems maintain watershed functions, cycle
nutrients, provide human and wildlife habitat, remove air pollutants
and emit oxygen, provide employment, maintain biodiversity, provide
recreation, generate soil, sequester atmospheric carbon, and contribute
- The world's grasslands have declined in their extent and condition,
as well as their ability to support human, plant, and animal life.
- Grasslands, which cover 40 percent of the earth's surface, are
home to almost a billion people, half of them living in susceptible
- Agriculture and urbanization are transforming grasslands. For
some North American prairies, conversion is already nearly 100
percent. Road-building and human-induced fires also are changing
the extent, composition, and structure of grasslands.
- All of the major foodgrains corn, wheat, oats, rice,
barley, millet, rye, and sorghum originate in grasslands.
Wild strains of grasses can provide genetic material to improve
food crops and to help keep cultivated varieties resistant to
- Grasslands attract tourists willing to travel long distances
and pay safari fees to hunt and view grassland fauna. Grasslands
boast some of the world's greatest natural phenomena: major migratory
treks of large herds of wildebeest in Africa, caribou in North
America, and Tibetan antelope in Asia.
- As habitat for biologically important flora and fauna, grasslands
are found within 15 percent of the Centers of Plant Diversity,
11 percent of Endemic Bird Areas, and 29 percent of ecoregions
considered outstanding for biological distinctiveness.
Source: World Resources 2000-2001
In Seas Of Grass, discover
the world's grasslands, natural vegetation of nearly 40 percent of
Earth's land surface, some of which are in grave danger. Read the
full description of this program
or watch a video clip.
In Land Of Plenty, Land Of Want, investigate the fundamental problem facing today's farmers: how to feed the world's growing population without endangering our environment. Read the full description of this program or watch a video clip.
Read Stories of Hope
from the Journey to Planet Earth series focusing on grassland ecosystems: