The Importance of Grasslands in South America | BirdLife

In the Southern Cone of the American continent, there is an area of ​​natural pastures unique in the world because of its rich biodiversity and the forage value of the species that compose it. In the past, these grasslands occupied an area of ​​100 million hectares, located in part of Rio Grande do Sul, Argentina, southern Paraguay and all of Uruguay. As other land uses were introduced, such as agriculture, forestation, routes and urbanization, natural grasslands were losing ground, until today they reach 50 million hectares.

Natural pastures are habitats for 540 species of registered wild birds, of which 12 are threatened globally. Among them are species of migratory birds that make their crossing annually joining the North American prairies with the pampas of South America.

The benefits of ecosystem services can be at a distance, even far from where the natural grasslands are, ie the rural settlement that preserves them.

The Grassland Alliance developed a formula to measure the degree of conservation of the natural grasslands in the hands of the rural producers that own or manage fractions of the same. This is the ICP (Index of contribution to the conservation of natural grasslands), which is already being used by some governments in the region to provide benefits to producers who better conserve their natural grasslands, through tax cuts, emission and sale of bonds for ecosystem services, access to preferential credit lines, etc.

BirdLife International attaches great importance to the conservation of the world's natural grasslands and especially to the Southern Cone of South America where it has sponsored the establishment of the Grassland Alliance. Proof of this was the organization of the Second Natural Grassland Tour, carried out by the Grassland Alliance with the financial support of the US Forest Service. The tour was held in late 2016 and was attended by representatives of several member organizations of the BirdLife International network, from the Americas, the United Kingdom and Spain, with a total of 32 participants. A total of 2,900 kilometers were visited, visiting producers' establishments in Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina to observe the state of the region's grasslands, the activities being developed by the Grassland Alliance, and gather the opinion of the producers on the subject.

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The Regional Director of the BirdLife Secretariat for the Americas, Esteban Lasso, said that the tour "made it possible to highlight the contribution made by the four member countries of the Grassland Alliance to the benefit of livestock farmers, The Biodiversity. One of the things we saw both in small and large producers is that proper management of natural pasture not only can improve production but can also contribute greatly to the adaptation and mitigation of climate change. "

Ramón Martí Montes, from SEO / BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain) highlighted how effective this project is, already consolidated with 10 years of travel, where clear results are being seen, with new breeders who adhere to new areas of natural habitats that guarantee their conservation in commitments that their owners acquire. In short, a model of development and management of the natural grassland that we find tremendously interesting, "concluded Marti.

" One of the important issues is that producers in the pasture area are aware of what they have to level of the region, then they recognize that their pastures are important for their livestock production and this allows them to better understand the ecological and biological dynamics that their pastures fulfill within the Pampas ecosystem, "said Paola Fernández of Colombia.

Greg Levandosky from the USA stated "I am very impressed with what they have done here in the region and I hope to be able to take this model to the Chihuahuan desert, to the north of Mexico where we have been working for the conservation of pasture birds for 10 years. I believe that in the coming years, alliances will be more necessary to face climate change and ensure that we continue to capture carbon and also preserve the natural landscape. "

The next stage is a new challenge for BirdLife International: to extend the achievements of the Grassland Alliance in the Southern Cone to the entire continent. The first steps have already been taken and the response from the actors from other regions who were present on the tour has been very auspicious.

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