November 20, 2010
Head on Grasslands at Risk
John W. Head (Kansas) has posted International Legal Regimes to Balance the Protection of Prairies and Grasslands with Their Agricultural Use Part One – Grasslands at Risk, a working paper for the Center for International Trade and Agriculture (CITA). The abstract:
Grasslands abound on Earth, but humans have damaged them profoundly. This paper – part of a book project focusing on the international legal regimes needed to strike an appropriate balance between the protection of grassland areas and their use for agricultural production – identifies where grasslands are located, what makes them distinct parts of our natural order, how they have been degraded, and why that matters.
Some points that are fundamental to this discussion include these: (1) grassland ecoregions exist both in tropical and in temperate zones of the Earth, and while there are important differences both between and within each of these two categories of grasslands, their similarities warrant looking at the two together; (2) grasslands are dramatically more complex and full of life than most people realize, and indeed the subtlety of their richness probably contributes to their abuse; (3) that abuse takes many forms and springs from many causes, including urban encroachment, forest encroachment (especially through fire suppression), habitat fragmentation, agricultural conversion, inappropriate grazing practices, water mismanagement, and recreational frivolity; and (4) human abuse of the world’s grasslands incurs a huge economic and financial cost to this and future generations, in part because it squanders the benefits that grasslands can provide by way of protecting water quality, buffering drastic natural phenomena (such as storms and floods), conserving soil resources, facilitating prudent recreation, maintaining critical habitat for wildlife, protecting biodiversity more generally, and contributing to the global food supply through sustainable use in agricultural and livestock operations.
The condition and use of grasslands around the world have a direct bearing on agricultural production and on the international trade in agricultural commodities that is essential for the Earth’s future. Hence this paper offers a factual foundation for legal and policy discussions; one or more later papers by the same author will contribute further to those discussions.
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