Celebrating and conserving the ecological richness of California's grasslands

Grassland Facts

Grasslands Provide Resilience in a Changing World

Healthy, functioning grasslands are essential for human well-being providing benefits that extend to local, regional, and global communities.

Food and Agriculture:Humans owe the development of our civilization to grasslands, which are the source of species that are staples in our diet, and enabled the development of agriculture and domestication of livestock.

Carbon Storage: Grasses have an enormous capacity for carbon storage. Grasslands remove more carbon from the atmosphere than any other ecosystem in America.

Biodiversity: California’s relatively intact grasslands are reservoirs of biodiversity. Grassland birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, pollinators and other animals depend on the resources these plants and spaces provide.

  • Native grasslands support about 40% of California's total native plant species (Wigand 2007:55).
  • Over 300 species of native grasses are found in California. Grasses are an integral part of diverse habitats, ranging from cool, wet forests to hot, dry deserts.
  • An astounding 90% of California's rare and endangered plant species reside in grasslands (Skinner & Pavlik, 1994).  
  •  Currently 73 grassland-associated species are listed by the state & federal Endangered Species Acts: 14 vertebrates and 59 plants, and 14 invertebrates, including 6 butterfly species.This count does not include unlisted native pollinators and other plants and animals experiencing sharp declines.

Pasturage: Many of California’s native grasses are considered excellent forage and continued to be so after reportedly over 100 years of grazing use.

  • Well-managed grazing can help maintain native grass populations in California grasslands. Native grasses offer a long, green forage season.
  • About 88% of California grasslands are privately owned (Jantz et al. 2007:301).

Water Quality:Deep-rooted perennial native grasses capture, filter and store water. They anchor the soil in place throughout the year long after annuals die.

  •  Appropriate management and restoration of grasslands can reap these benefits.

Aesthetics and Recreation: Grasslands provide sweeping views, gorgeous wildflower displays, and wonderful hiking opportunities.

  • Native grasses planted in urban landscapes are low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, and can filter polluted runoff.

Habitat:Grasslands are open habitats that provide necessary food and shelter for many birds, insects, and animals.

  • The decline in native grasses and grasslands in the last two centuries has been caused by intensive cultivation, poorly managed grazing, urbanization, fire suppression, and the introduction of invasive, nonnative species.
  • Agriculture, invasion by exotic species, development, and other human-related activities have reduced California native grasslands by 99%

References are from Stomberg MR, Corbin JD, and D'Antonio CM. 2007. California Grasslands: Ecology and Management, University of California Press, unless otherwise noted. 

    CNGA's Mission

    To promote, preserve, and restore the diversity of California's native grasses and grassland ecosystems through education, advocacy, research, and stewardship.

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