The World Conservation Union (IUCN) Programme on Protected Areas is the focal point within the IUCN Secretariat for Protected Areas and serves as the Secretariat for the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). WCPA is the world's leading global network of protected area specialists. It has designated Task Forces to deal with particular themes. The following is an extract from the “Report on the Mission and Activities of the Grasslands Protected Areas Task Force and Workplan for 2001–2004.” The editors have inserted occasional headers and notes. Ed.
Protection of grassland biomes in mountain areas
Grassland biomes, including both tropical grasslands, or savannas, and temperate grasslands, occupy about 27% (excluding tundra) of the earth's terrestrial surface and occur on every continent except Antarctica. Grasslands are one of the most geographically extensive of the globe's 15 recognized biomes, and are also among the most diverse and productive. Levels of protection among grassland types vary widely, where tropical grasslands have a relatively high level of protection approximating 9%, while temperate grasslands have the lowest level of protection of all biomes, at about 1%.
The central mission for the Grasslands Protected Areas Task Force is to attempt to raise the level of protection for grassland ecosystems. In cooperation with WCPA's Mountains Program, the Task Force endeavors also to pursue increased levels of protection for high elevation grasslands, particularly in the Himalaya–Hindu Kush region and the Andes of Chile, Ecuador and Peru.
To achieve a modest level of protection for temperate grasslands worldwide of 10% means about a ten-fold increase over what is protected today. In many parts of this biome, however, the impact of man has been enormous; in these areas, most of the grassland ecosystems no longer exist, and restoration may be necessary. Furthermore, current management practices on both protected and unprotected grasslands may not be conducive to the long-term maintenance of biological diversity. Developing best management practices for the management of grassland protected areas will also be a focus of attention for the Task Force.
Mission statement and objectives: “The 10 in 10 in 10”
Recognizing the above, the Mission of the Grasslands Protected Areas Task Force can be referred to as the “10 in 10 in 10”:
To achieve protection for a balanced, well distributed 10% of the temperate grasslands biome in the 10 priority regions of the world over the next 10 years.
To promote and facilitate the establishment of new grassland protected areas throughout the grassland biomes, with a priority on temperate grasslands, toward a goal of protecting 10% of the biome by the year 2013, and to provide for the protection, restoration and wise use of grassland protected areas through the development of best management practices and guidelines.
The 2001–2004 Workplan
Among the 6 tasks that the Task Force has defined in its Workplan for 2001–2004, the following are of particular relevance for mountain areas.
Filling the gaps: a global assessment of existing temperate grassland protected areas
Task: The Task Force is undertaking a global assessment of all temperate grassland protected areas, documenting their location, size, resource values, management practices and challenges, and threats. The assessment will be undertaken by country or region, as appropriate, and will also document, according to a locally relevant ecological land classification system, the extent of existing levels of biophysical representation in protected areas of their indigenous grassland ecosystems. This will also be done globally using Udvardy's biogeographical classification of the earth's terrestrial biomes.
Outcome: The outcome will provide a comprehensive indication of the scope of existing levels of protection for temperate grasslands, will identify where the gaps are in the system and will reveal the prevailing management challenges and threats. The product will be a catalogue of all temperate grassland protected areas in the world described as outlined above. Parks Canada staff are currently developing a prototype for this catalogue, using Grasslands National Park as the model. Upon completion of a draft of this prototype, it will be distributed among the Task Force network for comment and application. Cooperation with WCMC is sought for this project.
Time frame: The target for project completion is the World Parks Congress, 2003.
A priority for “Inner” Asia
Task: Inner Asia includes Mongolia, much of northern China and southern Siberia. This region contains over 6% of the world's grasslands—more than 2.5 million km2, or an area more than 7 times the size of Germany. Historically, much of this region has been occupied by nomadic pastoralists, and still is today. While signs of degradation are evident in several parts of the region, most notably in China and Siberia, other areas such as the eastern or Daurian steppe represent the last of the great plain ecosystems […]. There is also potential to protect other large tracts of grasslands in other parts of Inner Asia such as in the grasslands of northern China and the Uvs Nuur Basin spanning the boundaries of eastern Mongolia and Tsuva, Russia. There is interest in expanding the existing protected areas to protect more of these valuable ecosystems, as evidenced by two conferences held in Mongolia in 2000, the WCPA-led Seminar on the Protection and Conservation of Grasslands in East Asia, and the conference on “Transboundary Biodiversity Conservation: Trilateral Approach, Experiences and Visions.” The WCPA East Asia Steering Committee has endorsed the formation of an East Asia Grasslands Working Group to work specifically on grassland protected areas and transboundary cooperation. The Task Force is in the process of developing a Concept Proposal for the consideration of donor agencies to fund this important work. The Grasslands Task Force would like to work with the Transboundary Protected Areas Task Force on this project.
Outcome: A report will present a design and implementation strategy for the creation of a comprehensive system of grassland protected areas in East Asia, including an assessment for World Heritage Site potential.
Time frame: The target for project completion is the World Parks Congress, 2003.
The World Parks Congress, 2003—development of regional action plans
Task: The Task Force proposes that a workshop on Temperate Grassland Protected Areas be included in the agenda for the “Building Comprehensive Protected Area Systems” workshop stream during the World Parks Congress (WPC) in 2003. […] In preparation for the WPC, and in honor of the host country, it is proposed a special effort be made to make demonstrable progress in the establishment of new grasslands protected area(s) in South Africa.
Outcome: The development of country or region specific action plans for the creation of new grassland protected areas to achieve a regional target of a 10% of indigenous grassland ecosystems. The workshop would result in a report as an action plan for a global system of temperate grassland protected areas, complete with an implementation strategy.
Time frame: Completion of the task by the conclusion of the World Parks Congress, with the report to follow shortly thereafter.
Best management practices in grassland protected areas
Task: The question of how best to manage grasslands to protect and conserve biodiversity can be a source of great debate: to graze or not to graze; to burn or not to burn? The answers can require a delicate balance between employing natural processes and anthropogenic influences, and sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two. The effective utilization of such management practices as grazing and fire, and in some cases, realization of the need to accommodate some cultural realities such as sustainable wildlife harvesting or continued nomadic pastoralism, is central to the long-term maintenance of biological diversity. Other management issues such as the introduction of exotic species or the impacts of climatic change are more universal in their influence. The development of a set of best practices for the management of grassland protected areas will assist managers in dealing with a number of these often controversial issues.
Outcome: A report would be prepared as one of the Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines series on the management of grassland protected areas.
Time frame: By the year 2004, perhaps as an outcome of a workshop during the WPC 2003.
Additional information is available at the Web site www.iucn.org/themes/wcpa/theme/grasslands/grasslands.html.