Temperate grassland ecosystems are the least protected biomes on the planet. Worldwide, these important habitats are being lost at an alarming rate due to a number of factors that include the production of food and fuel for a growing human population. Their decline is having a significant impact on species such as grassland birds, and the ecosystem services these grasslands provide—ranging from carbon sequestration to water infiltration—are also being highly affected.
The Plowprint Report has been developed to broaden public awareness of grasslands loss, and to offer a consistent way for the conservation community to track year-to-year grassland conversion to cropland across the focal regions of the Mississippi River Basin and Great Plains. This report will be released on an annual basis.
Over the past few centuries the majority of the tallgrass prairie in the eastern portion of the study region has vanished to make room for crops such as corn and soy. The central and western portions of the region—the Great Plains—have seen less conversion overall, but still only half of their grasslands remains intact. Since 2009, over 53 million acres of grassland—an area the size of Kansas—have been converted to cropland across the Great Plains. In 2015-2016 alone, 2.5 million acres of the Great Plains were lost to plow-up for crop production. World Wildlife Fund is striving to slow the rate of conversion through partnerships with local landowners such as ranchers and tribal communities, and by working with decision makers to ensure the success of grassland-friendly policies.