The Hustai Declaration on Eurasian steppes



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The Hustai Declaration on Eurasian steppes

to reverse steppe destruction and to respond to the challenges of climate change.


Eurasian steppes form a belt of natural temperate grasslands that stretches from the plains of North-East China into the puszta of Hungary. The steppes gave birth to the evolution of many familiar animal species like horses, sheep and camels. Flowers like the tulip, iris and anemone find their origin on these grasslands. Nowadays the steppe landscape has been highly altered by human activities driven by population growth and the economy of markets. In large parts of the steppes the original grassland has been converted to crop land, and many of the original animal and plant species disappeared. Undisturbed steppes have become very rare in Europe. Larger tracts of original steppe only remain in Asia, in Kazakhstan, the Ural, Tuva and Mongolia. More recently climate change is putting additional and severe pressure on the steppe ecosystems, with serious consequences for steppe biodiversity and for the people that depend on the products and services delivered by the steppe ecosystems.

Protection and restoration of steppes has shown positive results in some isolated places inside the steppe belt, from Slovakia to Inner Mongolia in China. There is an urgent need to connect these individual activities into one coherent package, in order to reverse the trend in steppe degradation and to cope with the impact of climate change.

Appeal to the world community

An international conference in 2010, the year of biodiversity, at Hustai National Park in Mongolia brought together scientists and managers of steppe ecosystems to discuss the present state of the steppes. It was obvious that during the twenty years that evolved after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, the conservation of steppe did not receive the attention that these ecosystems deserve. Protected areas in the steppe belt mostly cover specific biotopes like lakes or mountains. The steppe themselves are seriously underrepresented.

Participants of the conference make an appeal to national governments of the steppe belt and to the international community to

  • develop and implement national strategic conservation plans for steppe ecosystems, their conservation and wise use, covering all sectors of society: from conservation to mining, from agriculture to education and public health, and beyond.
  • establish national and international monitoring networks of steppe ecosystems in order to follow closely their evolution and ecological functioning, and to adapt their management where negative trends are observed.
  • promote scientific collaboration by strengthening existing scientific research on steppe management and restoration, creating new research institutions where they do not exist and organise regular international exchange of scientific findings among scientists and steppe managers.
  • raise awareness and improve knowledge about the importance of steppes and their wise use among the general public and among (future) resource managers and planners in particular, a/o by integration of steppe conservation and management in school- and university curricula.
  • strengthen and facilitate community based management of steppe ecosystems, assuring controlled access to the natural resources of the steppes for the local communities, creating synergy by bringing together scientific and traditional knowledge.
  •  develop innovative policies and legislation that harmonise the challenges of modern times with the ecological advantages of traditional lifestyles of the steppe communities, capable to cope with the risks of the capricious and changing climate of Central Eurasia. 
  • establish an ecological network of protected areas covering at least 10 % of the total steppe area, and to be connected by ecological corridors. This ecological infrastructure will serve as an ecological backbone for steppe conservation. It will strengthen the resilience of steppe ecosystems and of the livelihoods of communities that live in and depend on the products and services provided by the steppes. This “green girdle” should cover all the Eurasian steppe, from the foothills of the Alps in the West to the Coastal zone of the Pacific Ocean in the East.

Hustai National Park, Mongolia, 11th of September 2010

For more information about status, threats, and possible solutions, please contact Dr. Tatyana Bragina, Thematic Group Leader on Eurasian Steppes of the Commission on Ecosystem Management of IUCN.

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