The world’s grasslands are under threat from habitat loss and climate change, as climate change pushes the world’s forests toward a plateau, according to new research published in Nature Climate Change.
The authors of the study say grasslands could become a third of the Earth’s landmass by 2050 if they can be kept intact, but they warn that a “cautious approach” is needed.
The team looked at all the grasslands on Earth and counted the number of species they can see, including all the species in a given habitat.
It then compared those numbers with the number found in each habitat area.
The researchers found that the majority of grasslands would have to be completely destroyed to protect all the other species.
“This finding suggests that even though grasslands may seem to be resilient to environmental change, they are very vulnerable to climate change,” the researchers wrote.
“Even if the climate continues to change, it is likely that the number and variety of grassland species will continue to decline.”
In the study, they also looked at the total number of grasses on Earth.
They found that grasslands cover about 25 percent of all land in the world, and that the species diversity of grass and plants in the grassland is declining at a rate of about 5 percent a year.
In other words, as we see more species being lost to extinction, the species richness in the landscape will decrease by more than 5 percent every year.
“In the future, grasslands will increasingly be a target for land managers, because we will lose more species than we find,” the study said.
“We are currently losing the equivalent of a hectare of land each year to the effects of climate change.
In the next decade, this loss will increase to an area equivalent to more than the whole continental United States.”
The study was published on Monday in the journal Nature Climate