Europe supports a huge variety of grassland ecosystems, both natural and those made or managed by man, spanning the coasts and high mountain regions and ranging from tundra in the North to the Mediterranean in the South and from the Azores in the West to the Ural Mountains in the East. These grassland ecosystems provide many goods and services such as food/forage, climate regulation, securing water and nutrient cycling, medicine and energy - all related to human health, prosperity and well-being in general.
Furthermore, grasslands are home to both wildlife and domestic livestock. For several groups of plants and animals, grassland ecosystems are characterized by remarkably high biodiversity. Many parts of Europe landscapes with pastures, meadows and/or natural grasslands contain regional biodiversity hotspots and support high proportion of native and rare species.
In spite of European states’ commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity objective of halting biodiversity loss by 2010, and in spite of the global importance of European pastures and meadows, the area covered by grasslands continues to decline dramatically, in particular due to conversion to cropland or abandonment; the remaining grasslands are often impacted by changes of management and accompanied by eutrophication, causing the regional extinction and the high global extinction risk of many species.
We note that while many European countries have water and forest legislation and strategies which promote a coherent vision and an integrated policy approach, grasslands lack such a framework and the effects are clear to see.
We therefore call for a strong and comprehensive Convention on Grassland Conservation in Europe within the framework of the Pan-European Landscape and Biodiversity Strategy, to secure the future of grasslands which provide vital ecosystem services to human society, are home to biodiversity, sources of natural beauty and cultural values.
362 scientists, representatives of NGOs, ministries, politicians, farmers and other persons interested in nature conservation from 41 countries have signed the declaration until now.