1. The IUCN/CEM Global Thematic Group on "Holarctic Steppes" (HSTG) unites experts on effective management and conservation of steppe ecosystems
2. The main goal of the Holarctic Steppe Group is to promote the conservation of steppes and to harmonize this with the needs of the human society. In 2010, HSG started a global programme named "Golden Steppe Chain Initiative" (GSChI).
3. The main objectives of the GSChI are:
1) to bring experts together from different parts of the Steppe Biome
2) to summarize experience with different land use changes and their effects along the steppe biome
3) to gather traditional knowledge and best practices for the conservation and management of steppe ecosystems
4) to analyze the responses of steppes to different factors including global environmental and land use changes
5) to initiate a steppe heritage network
6) to promote practical actions and environmental education to conserve the steppe
7) to protect the interests of steppe ecosystems in international organizations and programs.
8) to mainstream steppe conservation in the global agenda
4. HSTG participates in global, regional and national meetings for nature conservation and steppe management (e.g. IUCN, CBD, CCD)
5. HSTG also prepares analytical documents and reviews on different subjects relating to the steppe biome.
Conservation Policy 2020
Major changes have occurred in conservation and environmental policy at all levels. A New Strategy and National Action Plans for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity by 2020, as well as future plans to implement before 2030 were prepared, or are at the final stages of preparation. These activities follow the decisions of the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity (18-29 October 2010, Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan), and the updated Global Strategic Plan for 2011-2020 years.
Experts from many countries, including HSTG members, have contributed to the creation of these documents, which define necessary actions for the coming years. Even more efforts are needed now to make these plans become reality, and preserve the invaluable natural treasures and of our Planet.
The main goals of the CEM 2012-2016, and HSTG’s objectives and initiatives for the coming years
HSTG will provide critical information to foster the main goals of the CEM’s mandate for 2012-2016 (Annex), and will contribute to the core knowledge products of IUCN addressing:
• Red List of Ecosystems
• Resilience of Ecosystems and their dependent communities
• Specific Ecosystems and Biome oriented activities
• Emerging Issues: e.g. attention needs to be paid to the aspects of ecosystem management and the private sector, on fisheries management, on urban ecosystems, etc.
In accordance with the goals of the CEM, and with an aim to improve own activities the members of the group made up “The HSTG Action Plan for the 2013-2014 intercessional period”. In the coming years HSTG’s members will focus on the analysis of data on the conservation of steppe ecosystems, their status and management in their own countries or regions. This is related to the fact that in several countries (for example Russia and Kazakhstan) large (GEF and others) steppe projects are carried out or are in the process of completion. Important environmental actions are carried out in Mongolia, Ukraine. New data and assessments of the status of the steppe biome should be made available for the "steppe" community. Assessment of ecosystem services can be a basic tool for the conservation, restoration, optimal steppe ecosystem management and sustainable use of steppe biodiversity.
Encyclopedia of the World Steppes.
A potentially effective way of synthesizing and providing valuable information about the status of the steppes and steppe biodiversity is the compilation of a virtual Encyclopedia of Key Steppes of the World (or Encyclopedia of World Steppes). The respective data and links will be added to the web-site of IUCN/CEM. At the moment, steppe areas and other temperate grassland ecosystems, which are in the focus of the Global Thematic Group "Holarctic steppes», are examined. The «Encyclopedia» will include information such as a brief description of physical and geographical conditions, location of the described steppe units, vegetation cover and soils, current status (protected, included in conservation programs, recommended for preservation, used as pasture etc.), valuable species of flora and fauna, current land use and threats. In a next step ecosystem services can be evaluated, made on this basis. A practical step in this direction was the HSTG’s small project carried out with the support of CEM in conjunction with the Southern Federal University (SFedU) of the Russian Academy of Sciences. It included the compilation of modern data by the Laboratory of Biodiversity of the Science-Research Institute of Biology of SfedU for the initial evaluation of Don steppes in the south of Russia.
Another example of substantial work is the “Mongolian Gobi Eco- regional Assessment” with a nice GIS facility that has been compiled with support from "The Nature Conservancy”:
In the future, the “Encyclopedia” will also include other steppe areas, and could contribute to an IUCN Red List of Ecosystems for the steppe biome.
Publications and Experiences
This section on the IUCN website/ CEM/HSTG includes links to most important publications on the steppes of Holarctic, materials on the steppe conferences, and examples for best practice management of steppe ecosystems for information sharing/using. This important site (http://savesteppe.org/) is kept up to date for many years by - Dr. Ilya Smelyansky, member of HSTG, and his team who also publishes the Journal “Steppe Bulletin” ISSN 1726-2860 (print version ISSN 1684-843). The magazine and website are in Russian and English versions. Many members of the CEM/HSTG used these resources for information about the present status of steppe biodiversity and actions for the conservation and management of Eurasian steppe ecosystems.
Rules for HSTG’s activities (for HSTG members only)
Members of the HSTG are the leading experts in a country or region, which is relevant for the "Golden Steppe Chain Initiative" (GSChI). They can work independently, may create an additional network of specialists within their country (region) or summarize and analyze information provided by leading experts and local communities. The aim is to develop proposals / acts to effectively achieve the goals and objectives of the IUCN / CEM / HSTG. The HSTG’s members should be dedicated to promote the conservation of steppe biodiversity and sustainable usage of steppe resources. The HSTG members acknowledge that success of the group as a whole depends on their initiatives and communications. Each member of the group as a leading expert for a given country (region) analyzes the available research, publications, implemented solutions, contributions from local communities and the actions taken in the country (region). It is important to bring these syntheses to the global community to raise awareness about the status and problems, and implement effective practices of conservation/ and land use of the steppe biome through the mechanisms and knowledge of the HSTG/CEM /IUCN. Achievement should be summarized once a year, allowing evaluating the overall effectiveness of the group, trends in the state of the steppe ecosystems and related grasslands. All members therefore assume responsibility to provide a summary of their personal specific activities and other important information to the HSTG's leaders at least once per year. These will be fed in regular summary reports made available to the group.
These simple steps will promote an understanding of where we are in the steppe biodiversity conservation and reasonable ecosystem management, and the directions in which we want to intensify our efforts.
Prepared by Dr. Tatyana M. Bragina with inputs from HSTG’s members especially from Dr. Karsten Wesche