Prioritize grassland restoration to bend the curve of biodiversity loss

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In times of unprecedented climate change, ecological restoration efforts have a strong focus on forests for the purpose of carbon sequestration. Grasslands, in contrast, remain relatively neglected in global restoration policies. Concurrently, we are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis—it is estimated that 1 million species are globally threatened with extinction. Here, we present analyses from central Europe and southern Brazil that show that the majority of our endangered plant species are in fact found in open ecosystems. Using Germany as an example, we show that we could reduce plant extinction risk by up to 82% if we restore open, grassy ecosystems. This also holds true for southern Brazil, where grassland species constitute the single largest share of endangered species, but where grassy ecosystems continue to be systematically neglected by restoration policies. We further expand on our biodiversity argument to include the role that grassland restoration can play in mitigating climate change. We posit that ramping up grassland restoration efforts may not only be our best bet to bend the curve of biodiversity loss, but it will also make a critical contribution to the resilience of ecosystems in the dynamic decades to come. It is time for grassland restoration to receive higher priority in global restoration efforts and policy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13931
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number5
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 07.2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is an outcome of the GrassSyn Working Group supported by SinBiose (Centro de Síntese em Biodiversidade e Serviços Ecossistêmicos; grant 442348/2019‐3) and sDiv (Synthesis Centre of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle‐Jena‐Leipzig; grant DFG FZT 118). J.S. is further supported by the project TERRANOVA, the European Landscape Learning Initiative, which has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the H2020 Marie Skłodowska‐Curie Actions (grant 813904). All data and R code to reproduce the analyses and figures of this work are available on GitHub at Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Restoration Ecology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Ecological Restoration.

    Research areas

  • biodiversity crisis, ecosystem resilience, extinction risk, forest bias, natural climate solutions, restoration policy
  • Biology
  • Ecosystems Research