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Grasslands and Rangelands

Tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers depend on the health of rangelands and grasslands for their livelihoods. Rangelands encompass a wide variety of landscapes, including some grasslands, shrublands, wetlands, tundra, and deserts. Indigenous to every continent except Antarctica, grasslands’ vast expanse is dominated by grasses and non-woody plants. 

Importance of Rangelands and Grasslands

Rangelands, primarily covered by natural vegetation, provide grazing and forage for livestock and wildlife. The fertile soil that characterizes many grasslands make the areas well suited to cultivating crops.

Rangeland and grassland ecosystems provide benefits vital to agriculture and the environment including:

  • Land for farming
  • Grazing and forage for livestock and native animals
  • Watersheds for rural and urban uses
  • Habitat for plants, insects, and animals
  • Water for sustainable landscapes
  • Areas for recreational activities
  • Potential renewable energy and mineral resources

NIFA’s Impact

The condition of the nation’s rangelands and grasslands vary from highly disturbed to fully functioning, healthy ecosystems. NIFA seeks to conserve and improve the country’s grasslands and rangelands by:

  • Supporting development of emerging multi-disciplinary rangeland science methodologies
  • Researching the impact of invasive species  
  • Supporting sustainable practices for agricultural use as well as mineral and fossil fuel extraction
  • Investigating the use of grasses in bioenergy production
  • Helping agricultural producers, rural landowners, and land managers make science-based land management decisions
  • Developing sustainable practices for rangeland and grassland watersheds  
  • Researching the effects of grazing land conservation practices

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