Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

‘Silent demise’ of vast ‘Rangelands’ threatens climate, food, wellbeing of billions: UNCCD 


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UNCCD Reports; Global Land Outlook Thematic Report

Mains level: UNCCD; Land Degradation; f

Why in the News?

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) recently published the “Global Land Outlook Thematic Report” on Rangelands and Pastoralists, revealing that up to 50% of Rangelands are degraded.

About UNCCD:

  • UNCCD adopted in 1994 (effectively from 1996),  is a legally binding agreement that aims to protect and restore land and combat desertification and drought.
  • It is one of the three Rio Conventions (the other two being – the Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)).

What is the Rangeland?

  • Rangeland, is any extensive area of land that is occupied by native herbaceous or shrubby vegetation which is grazed by domestic or wild herbivores.

    • It may include tallgrass prairies, steppes (shortgrass prairies), desert shrublands, shrub woodlands, savannas, chaparrals, and tundras.
  • These lands constitute 54% of all land cover, account for 1/6th of global food production, and represent nearly 1/3rd of the planet’s carbon reservoir.

World areas that are most acutely affected by Rangeland Degradation:

  • Central Asia, China, Mongolia: The replacement of government management with privatization and agricultural industrialization led to the abandonment of herders and reliance on insufficient natural resources, causing degradation.
  • North Africa and the Near East: Climate change is pushing pastoralists into poverty and degrading rangelands.
  • Sahel and West Africa: Conflict, power imbalances, and border issues have disrupted livestock mobility, leading to degradation.
  • South America: Climate change, deforestation from industrial agriculture, and land use conversion are primary drivers of degradation.
  • East Africa: Migration and forced displacement due to competing land uses are evicting pastoralists, causing degradation.
  • North America: Degradation of ancient grasslands and dry rangelands threatens biodiversity in ecosystems like tall-grass prairies and southern deserts.
  • Europe: Policies favoring industrial farming over pastoralism and misguided incentives are causing the abandonment and degradation of rangelands.
  • South Africa and Australia: Afforestation, mining, and land conversion are causing degradation and loss of rangelands.

How does it impact the Food chain?

  • Over two billion people, including small-scale herders, ranchers, and farmers, depend on healthy rangelands for their livelihoods, underscoring the critical link between rangeland health and food chain cycle.
  • Up to 50% of rangelands are degraded due to various factors including overuse, misuse, climate change, and biodiversity loss, posing a severe threat to food security.

The Economic significance of Rangelands:

  • Livestock Grazing and Agriculture: Rangelands are crucial for livestock production, providing natural forage for cattle, sheep, goats, and other herbivores. This grazing land supports the meat and dairy industries, which are vital to the global food supply and rural economies.
  • Eco-tourism and hunting: These areas support a wide range of wildlife, contributing to biodiversity and offering opportunities for eco-tourism and hunting, both of which generate significant income for local economies.
  • Ecosystem Services: Rangelands provide vital services like water filtration, carbon storage, and soil preservation, yielding economic advantages through climate regulation and conservation.
  • Income and employment opportunities: Harvesting these resources provides income and employment opportunities for rural populations. The economic contributions made by different countries are as follows:
    • Ethiopia: Livestock production from rangelands accounts for 19% of the country’s GDP.
    • India: Livestock from rangelands contributes 4% to the national GDP.
    • Brazil: As a major beef producer, Brazil generates one-third of its agribusiness GDP from cattle livestock, producing 16% of the world’s beef.

What is the innovative approach presented by the UNCCD Report?

  • The past estimates by UNCCD of degraded rangeland of roughly 25% are significantly underestimated, where the actual loss of rangeland’s health and productivity was potentially reaching up to 50%.
  • Conceptual Approach: The report outlines a new conceptual approach designed to help policymakers stabilize, restore, and manage rangelands more effectively.
    • This new approach is supported by detailed case studies from nearly every world region, which provide important lessons from both the successes and failures in rangeland management.
  • Core Recommendation – Protect Pastoralism: The report emphasizes the importance of protecting pastoralism a traditional, mobile way of life based on pasture-based livestock production as a key strategy for sustainable rangeland management.

Conclusion: Many countries like the U.S. and Canada makingare trying to reintroduce bison, an animal with significant cultural importance to indigenous peoples. This initiative aims to promote rangeland health and enhance food security.

Mains PYQ:

Q The process of desertification does not have climate boundaries. Justify with examples.(UPSC IAS/2020)

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