The Only Organization Working Exclusively to Conserve and Restore

California's Native Grasslands

Grassland Facts

Grasslands Provide Resilience in a Changing World

Modified from: White R, Murray S, Rohweder M. 2000. Pilot analysis of global ecosystems: grassland ecosystems. World Resources Institute. Washington DC. 69pp. Also available at: <>. Modified from Campbell et al 1996:3. Accessed 2011 Jan 23.

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.

  • Grasslands are the source of species that are staples in our diet (including wheat, barley, corn, and sugarcane). 
  • Grasslands feed the grazing animals we depend on for meat, milk, wool, and leather. 

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).

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

Research Article: Grasslands more reliable carbon sink than trees.Dass, Pawlok, Benjanim Z Houlton, Yingping Want and David Warlind. 2018. Environmental Research Letters, Volume 13, Number 7. Link to PDF 

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.

Flooding & Erosion Prevention Grasslands soak up rain and flood water like giant sponges helping to reduce flooding and erosion.

  • The water filters into the ground recharging underground supplies.
  • Appropriate management and restoration of grasslands can reap these benefits.

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; Eviner, 2016).  
  •  Over 70 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.

HabitatGrasslands are essential open habitats that provide necessary food and shelter for many birds, insects, and animals.

  • Agriculture, invasion by exotic species, development, and other human-related activities have reduced California native grasslands by 99%.

Aesthetics and RecreationGrasslands provide sweeping views, gorgeous wildflower displays, and wonderful hiking opportunities.

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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