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DECLINE OF WORLD’S RANGELANDS: WHY IT MATTERS



  May 27, 2024

DECLINE OF WORLD’S RANGELANDS: WHY IT MATTERS



ABOUT HALF OF THE WORLD’S RANGELANDS ARE DEGRADED

A recent report by the United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD) has highlighted the alarming degradation of rangelands across the globe. These natural or semi-natural ecosystems, vital for livestock and wild animals, cover over half of Earth’s terrestrial surface area, including about 1.21 million square kilometers in India.

Key Findings:

1. Extent of Degradation: Nearly 50% of the world’s rangelands are now classified as “degraded,” facing a “silent demise.”

2. Importance of Rangelands: Rangelands serve as carbon sinks, storehouses of freshwater, and are crucial for preventing desertification. They support food security and livelihoods for millions of people globally.

3. Impact on Soil and Biodiversity: Unsustainable land and livestock management practices, conversion of rangelands to farmlands, and uncertainty over land rights of pastoral communities lead to rangeland degradation. This negatively impacts soil fertility and biodiversity, resulting in a dip in incomes of pastoralist communities.

What are Rangelands?

Rangelands are natural or semi-natural ecosystems that are grazed by livestock or wild animals. Depending on climatic conditions, they contain diverse vegetation including grasses, shrubs, bushes, and open forests.

Rangelands in India:

In India, rangelands cover about 1.21 million square kilometers and are found in various regions, including:

Thar Desert
Himalayan meadows
Grasslands and savannas across central and southern India

Importance of Rangelands:

• Carbon Sinks: Rangelands absorb more carbon than they emit, helping to mitigate climate change.

• Water Storage: They act as storehouses of freshwater, essential for ecosystems and human use.

• Preventing Desertification: Rangelands play a crucial role in preventing desertification by maintaining soil stability.

• Food Security and Livelihoods: Millions of people worldwide depend on rangelands for food security and livelihoods, particularly pastoral communities who rear livestock.

• Biodiversity: Rangelands support a diverse range of plant and animal species, contributing to overall biodiversity.

Pastoral Communities:

Pastoralism is a livelihood system based on livestock production. Pastoral communities rear sheep, goats, cattle, horses, donkeys, camels, yaks, llamas, alpacas, and pigs for dairy, meat, wool, and leather production. Their livelihoods are dependent on the quality of pasture (rangelands) they have access to and their rights over them.

Impact of Degradation:

The degradation of rangelands impacts the livelihoods of pastoral communities, reduces soil fertility, and decreases biodiversity. It also threatens food security and contributes to the adverse effects of climate change.



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