Grasslands don't just provide stunning landscapes, they're also essential to life on Earth. Grasslands harbor thousands of species of plants and animals all over the world, from North America and South America to Africa, Australia, and Mongolia. And, like forests, grasslands actually capture and store carbon and can help combat climate change. Yet across the globe, grasslands are the most altered and least conserved habitats.
While Argentina’s temperate grasslands cover an area of the South American continent almost as enormous as Alaska, only a percentage are protected. The Conservancy works with ranchers, government officials, landowners, and other organizations to preserve a swath of Argentine grasslands as large as Florida.
Grazing on Grasslands
Brought to the Americas by European settlers, sheep have been ranched in Argentina since the late 19th century. Patagonian sheep are raised primarily for their wool and produce some of the finest Merino in the world—most of which is sold on international markets.
Often grazed year-round and with open access to the fragile arid landscape, however, large flocks, combined with strong winds and long, extreme winters, are causing desertification in one of the world’s most threatened and least protected habitats: the temperate grasslands.
Sustainable Levels of Sheep
When flock sizes, lands, and riparian areas are properly man aged, ranchers, sheep, and native plants and animals can thrive together on the same vast swaths of grasslands.
Collaborating with local and international partners, the Conservancy is providing the tools, technology, and science to help sheep ranchers in Patagonia:
- Use satellite technology and on-the-ground field work to map the vegetation and wildlife distribution on their lands;
- Identify priority areas for conservation, and find ways to protect those areas;
- Develop and implement grazing regimes—systems of grazing rotation that allow for the regeneration of native species—and other management practices favorable to the natural conditions and local flora and fauna found in temperate grasslands;
- Establish access to global markets that promote sustainable products.