Will Conservation of Steppe Grassland Ecosystems Help Combat Climate Change?

Publication date: 09 December 2023

Dubai – UAE – COP28 CA Pavilion hosted the side event «Climate benefits of large-scale conservation and restoration of steppe grassland ecosystems» on December 9, 2023.

Grasslands are the most threatened terrestrial ecosystem on Earth: globally, around 50% have been lost to conversion to arable agriculture; Vast areas are degraded by unsustainable grazing, almost all grassland ecosystems are now highly fragmented; only 5% of intact grasslands are protected. Their role in storing carbon and mitigating climate change has been mostly ignored.

Kazakhstan holds the world's largest expanses of steppe ecosystems. The Kazakh government is working on preserving key steppe species and their habitats, incorporating sustainable livestock grazing mechanisms into domestic policies.

The longstanding Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative has been recognized by the UN as one of the flagship programs for ecosystem restoration. The Altyn Dala Partnership was established in 2006 with the support of the Government of Kazakhstan, the Kazakhstan Association for Biodiversity Conservation, and international partners. During this period, the Kazakh government, with the assistance of its partners, improved legislation, expanded and created state-protected areas in the steppe zone covering 5 million hectares, and restored the population of the critically endangered saiga antelope to nearly 2 million individuals by 2023.

The extensive efforts to restore and preserve steppe ecosystems under such initiatives demonstrate climate benefits, including a reduction in the number of summer wildfires, restoration of nutrient cycling, conservation of globally important carbon stocks in the soil, and an increase in the amount of carbon in the saiga antelope biomass, currently estimated at 100,000 tons.

Video recording - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ln4J6FjkGys

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