IUCN’s alarm call for Eurasian steppes

27 August 2010 | News story

Growing threats to Euroasian steppes such as overgrazing, afforestation and climate change will be the focus of an international conference organized by IUCN from 9th to 12th September in the Hustai National Park in Mongolia. The meeting will be attended by experts on natural grasslands but also by politicians and people that rely on steppes in their everyday lives, such as pastoralists.

The Eurasian steppes stretch from the lowlands of Inner Mongolia to the west coast of the Black Sea and into the pusta of Hungary. They are home to many animal species such as horses, sheep and camels, as well as plant species such as tulip, iris and anemone. But today the steppe landscape is highly affected by human activities: the grassland has been converted into agricultural land, and many of the original animal and plant species have disappeared. The only places where undisturbed steppe still remains is Hungary, Ukraine, a small area in Kazakhstan, as well as the Oeral, Tuva and Mongolia.

Although steppes have always faced numerous threats such as overgrazing and afforestation, climate change is currently placing additional, more severe pressure on the ecosystem. These threats result in an enormous loss of biodiversity and productivity in the area, which has a negative effect on the livelihoods of its inhabitants.

During the conference, the participants will discuss the ongoing projects that aim to improve local people’s livelihoods and help them adapt to climate change while developing sustainable pasture management. The meeting will also be an opportunity to give voice to groups protesting against afforestation of the last remaining original steppe areas in the Ukraine and to discuss the problem of hunting of the almost extinct Saiga Antelope in Kazakhstan.

IUCN hopes that the meeting will highlight the value of steppes both as our natural heritage and as a rich source of biological diversity.

Following the meeting, governments responsible for steppe conservation will receive policy recommendations and a book will be published based on scientific contributions from the conference.

For more information please contact:

Pat Hawes, IUCN Ecosystem Management Programme, e-mail: patricia.hawes@ iucn.org