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Journey to Planet Earth
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Plan B: Mobilizing to Save CivilizationState of the Planet's OceansState of the Ocean's AnimalsState of the Planet's WildlifeState of the PlanetFuture ConditionalHot ZonesSeas of GrassOn the BrinkLand of Plenty, Land of WantUrban ExplosionRivers of Destiny
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Grassland Ecosystems

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 aesthetic beauty.

  • 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 drylands.

  • 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 disease.

  • 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:


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Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization | State of the Planet's Oceans | State of the Ocean's Animals
State of the Planet's Wildlife | The State of the Planet | Future Conditional | On the Brink | Hot Zones
Seas of Grass | Land of Plenty, Land of Want | Urban Explosion | Rivers of Destiny

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