SLU news

Restoring biodiversity, livelihoods, and climate - the power of Wilder Rangelands

Published: 01 March 2024

On 3 March every year, the World Wildlife Day is marked to celebrate wild animals and plants. This year, we at SLU Global spotlight a collaborative research and capacity building programme between South African and European scientists to address the complex challenges facing the world's rangelands.

Rangelands face threats from climate and land use change. The marginalisation and low livelihood standards of rangeland communities, the disruption of their indigenous knowledge systems, and the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, are additional major challenges. In a new scientific paper, South African and European scientists explore wilder rangelands as a solution for restoring biodiversity, supporting human livelihood, and mitigating climate change.

In the paper, the researchers propose a framework that can be used to develop nature-based opportunities to tackle threats stemming from climate change, unsustainable land use practices, and socio-economic challenges such as land tenure issues. One of the primary concerns highlighted is the adverse impact of inappropriate nature-based climate change mitigation initiatives, such as tree planting in grassy ecosystems. These efforts not only fail to address the root causes of climate change but also worsen existing rangeland challenges by disrupting indigenous knowledge systems, marginalising rangeland communities, and negatively affecting biodiversity and ecosystem services.

In response, the paper offers a comprehensive approach to develop alternative nature-based opportunities for rangeland systems. At its core lies a Theory of Change approach designed to guide the development, implementation, and assessment of strategies aimed at restoring rangelands. By fostering collaboration between local communities, regional stakeholders, and international partners, the framework seeks to co-create innovative rangeland use models that simultaneously mitigate climate change impacts, restore biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, and improve human livelihood.

– Our proposed framework is a significant step towards sustainable management of rangeland ecosystems worldwide for the benefit of people, biodiversity and climate. Its emphasis on community engagement and interdisciplinary collaboration underscores the importance of integrating diverse scientific perspectives and other knowledge systems for meaningful and lasting change, says Joris Cromsigt, senior lecturer at the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies, SLU.
– As efforts to combat climate change and protect biodiversity intensify, initiatives like this offer hope for a more resilient and sustainable future for rangeland communities and ecosystems worldwide, Joris concludes.

The framework

  • Aims to address challenges in world's rangelands: climate change, unsustainable land use, misguided mitigation.
  • Fosters collaboration between local communities, regional stakeholders, and international partners.
  • Aims to co-create innovative rangeland use models, based on restoring natural processes as a nature-based opportunity for mitigating climate change, restoring biodiversity, and increasing human livelihood.
  • Emphasises community engagement and interdisciplinary collaboration.

The paper
Wilder rangelands as a natural climate opportunity: Linking climate action to biodiversity conservation and social transformation

Other relevant papers

From reindeer to rhino: reflections on 'Climate change mitigation and adaptation benefits of wilder rangelands'

Trophic rewilding as a climate change strategy?

Trophic rewilding can expand natural climate solutions

The Wilder Rangelands Programme

Wilder Rangelands is a joint research and education programme between SLU, Nelson Mandela University and Utrecht University, developing knowledge and capacity for the sustainable use of the world’s rangeland systems. It receives funding from diverse European and South African sources.

Wilder Rangelands are grassy ecosystems with diverse land use models (including the production of meat and fibres) and tenure systems (from communal to privately owned), where natural processes prevail and support nature-based opportunities for combined climate action, biodiversity restoration and livelihood improvement.

The programme currently includes several PhD students and postdoctoral fellows associated with and co-supervised by the three universities.

For more information on this programme, contact:


More on rangelands

Rangelands cover more than 50% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface and include diverse ecosystems, such as grasslands, savannas, shrublands, woodlands, and tundra.