If you’ve been to one of our presentations, visited our offices or talked with our Board or staff, chances are that you’ve heard us mention or reference the “four places.” This concept stems from a 2008 study by the Temperate Grasslands Conservation Initiative, which is a program of the World Commission on Protected Areas within the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The study involved a global assessment of temperate grasslands and categorizing them according to several factors:
- Current levels of protection
- Current levels of disturbance
- Remaining area in a relatively natural state
- Potential for connectivity
- Current ecological condition
- Potential for restoration
- Numbers of extirpations or extinctions
- Potential for reintroductions
- Prospects for high levels of protection.
Based on the assessment, scientists identified that the greatest potential for grasslands conservation on a landscape-scale can only be found in four places around the world. According to the report:
“It is in these four grassland landscapes where the potential still exists to protect or restore large, ecologically viable grasslands, and with the required restoration and reintroduction efforts. Moreover, with this habitat protected, it may still be possible to reestablish a semblance of their natural wildlife populations and predator-prey relationships.”
In honor of Geography Awareness Week, here are each of the four places. Click each region to be taken to more information about these unique and treasured ecosystems. We also decided to celebrate the “4 Places” concept with a tribute in frosting! The cake above was made by one of our staff, and each flag marks one of the four places listed below (Patagonia is out of sight in the photo but was not forgotten).
- North America’s mixed and short grass prairie – Home of American Prairie Reserve!
- Plains of eastern Mongolia
- Kazakh steppe
- Patagonian steppe