Climate Change

Global environmental change alters grasslands

Grasslands store 30 per cent of the world's carbon making them crucial in combating climate change  

Published: Wednesday 21 August 2019

Climate change, pollution and various environment alterations across the globe are changing the identity of grasslands, according to a new study by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal.

Grasslands occupy more than 40 per cent of all the ice free land in the world. It has sustained humans for the past 300 million years, when the first Homo Sapiens appeared in Africa.

Grasslands also provide food and shelter for various other species including Zebras and Giraffes. Thirty per cent of the world's carbon is stored in these Grasslands, which makes them crucial in combating climate change. But, the Grassland ecology is shifting due to human activities, says the new study.

The PNAS team conducted 105 experiments in different grasslands around the world. Each experiment focused on particular global change factors like rising carbon dioxide (CO2), hotter temperatures and drought. Grasslands showed resilience to these factors in the first 10 years of exposure, after that their species began to alter, the study said.

Half of the experiments, lasting 10-year or more, showed a change in the number of species in grasslands. The study also found that the grasslands’ identity can change rapidly without a reduction in the number of plant species but due to the change in individual plants. Even though the grasslands are resilient towards global change for around 10 years, it is vulnerable due to the fast pace of global change.

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