What are Rangelands?

May 22, 2024

The recently published report, “Global Land Outlook Thematic Report on Rangelands and Pastoralists” by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification highlighted that rangelands are facing a ‘silent demise’.

About Rangelands:

  • The rangelands are category of Earth’s land cover consists mostly of the natural grasslands used by livestock and wild animals to graze and forage.
  • The vegetation of ranges may include tallgrass prairies, steppes (shortgrass prairies), desert shrublands, shrub woodlands, savannas, chaparrals and tundras.
  • Rangelands are the "Wild Open Spaces" that cover about half of the earth's land surface and half of western North America.
  • Reasons for degradation
    • The problem is driven largely by converting pastures to cropland and other land use changes due to population growth and urban expansion.
    • Rapidly rising food, fibre and fuel demands, excessive grazing, abandonment and policies that incentivise overexploitation.
  • Significance of Rangelands
    • These are used for livestock forage, wildlife habitat, water, mineral resources, wood products, wildland recreation, open space and natural beauty.
    • These are an important economic engine in many countries and define cultures. Home to one quarter of the world’s languages, they also host numerous World Heritage Sites and have shaped the value systems, customs and identities of pastoralists for thousands of years.
    • Two billion people – small-scale herders, ranchers and farmers, often poor and marginalised – depend on healthy rangelands worldwide.