Demise of rangelands ‘severely underestimated’: Report

Demise of rangelands ‘severely underestimated’: Report

Rangelands cover 80 million square kilometers—more than half the land surface of earth. Mostly natural grasslands used by livestock and wild animals to graze, they also include scrubland, mountain plateaus, deserts and wetlands.

As much as half of all rangelands—encompassing some of nature’s most striking vistas from the Arctic to the tropics, deserts and mountains—are believed to be degraded, the report said.

Healthy rangelands are an asset in the fight against global warming, locking away carbon in soil and spurring the growth of vegetation that pulls planet-heating CO2 from the atmosphere.

Rangelands are biodiversity hotspots, providing habitats for Africa’s most iconic wildlife, and pasture for one billion grazing animals, the report said.

They account for one-sixth of the world’s food production, it added, and underpin many national economies.

Climate change, urban expansion, population growth and the conversion of land for farming were fueling their destruction, said the report by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

Poor policy, neglect and large-scale rangeland mismanagement had eroded soils, releasing carbon rather than storing it, and stripped the earth of the nutrients needed to support plant and animal life.