Posted by Leigh Hewer on Feb 18, 2020
Member Bob France spoke today about the grasslands eco-system in Alberta and BC. The grasslands eco system in Canada is one of the most endangered eco systems in the world and is similar to the rainforests and coral reefs in other areas of the world. In western Canada less than 20% of the grassland are left and that is contributing to environmental damage with some 80% of species relying on the grasslands and the underground grassroots. Above ground the grasses pull carbon from the air with below ground providing a long term and stable eco-system. Cattle are extremely important to the grassland eco-system, previously it was the large bison herds that roamed the prairies before the arrival of the Europeans and cattle ranching. Grazing benefits grasslands by removing old growth for new growth in the spring, fire can be beneficial for removal of top growth as well. In approximately 1988, Grasslands National Park was established in southeast Alberta and was left as a park, without the previous grazing the grasslands were lost. Grazing has been re-established in the Park and the grassland eco-system has come back, providing strong evidence that the survival of the grasslands requires grazers. Bob noted that when grassland are tilled and farmed and then left to return a natural state it never goes back to natural grasslands. Other areas of the world where grasslands are present and have been farmed or the grazers removed, ie: elephants in Africa, the grasslands have been lost forever. We need to care for the grasslands be grazing so that they don't become extinct. Grazing not overgrazing is an important distinction as overgrazing can have very detrimental effects on grassland health .
In BC only 1% of the Provincial land base in classified as grasslands of which, 40% is private, 10% on reserve lands with 50% on Crown Land. Of the Crown land a very high percentage is with grazing tenures which are managed. 1/3 of the BC red and blue listed species live in the grasslands, so its preservation is very important. Closer to home with the development of housing, cultivation etc 39% of the grasslands in the Okanagan Boundary regions have been lost (45% in Vernon and 81% in the Kelowna area). Important grasslands in BC include Douglas Lake Plateau, White Lake Protected Area and the proposed National Park in the South Okanagan. Kal Lake Park is stated as grassland however based on historical photos and without active management it is being over grown with brush and trees effectively eliminating the grassland characteristic. The Grassland Conservation Council, Society of Range Management, Nature Conservancy and Nature Trust all play important rolls in the preservation of the grasslands.