Monarch Indiana Dunes NPS

Grasslands are sensitive to changes in climate

Grasslands are highly diverse communities of grasses, forbs, and woody plants. Grasslands cover about 27 percent of the lower 48 states, occurring mostly between the upper Midwest to the Rocky Mountains and from Canada to the central Gulf Coast. In addition to providing critical wildlife habitat, grasslands are major contributors to US food production and they provide many other valuable services, including aquifer recharge, habitat for pollinators, and recreational opportunities. Helping grasslands tolerate changing conditions will be vital to many wildlife and plant species, as well as the human communities that depend on these ecosystems. 

SE grasslands


Grasslands are adapted to a wide range of temperatures, and they can generally tolerate low moisture conditions and disturbances such as wildfire. This could make them well-adapted to future climate projections. However, specific grassland types, species, and locations may be more vulnerable to stresses such as invasive species and extended drought. Explore these resources to learn more about climate change impacts and grasslands: 

Grasslands and climate change (USDA Forest Service Climate Change Resource Center)

Climate change impacts to grasslands (Land Trust Alliance)

The effects of climate change in grasslands, shrublands, and deserts (USDA Forest Service) 


Coyote in the Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands

Adaptation in Action

There is no single answer on how to best adapt to climate change, and adaptation responses will vary by location based upon the magnitude of climate impacts, the inherent resilience of ecosystems, and the values and resources of local communities. We are creating resources to help land managers adapt grasslands to changing climate regimes.

We are working with partners to develop a "menu" of Adaptation Strategies and Approaches for grassland ecosystems. Drawing from a large body of scientific literature, this menu will be similar to other NIACS adaptation menus and will be designed for use with the Adaptation Workbook. Please contact us for more information.

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Prescribed burn

Work with us

As we develop the menu of Adaptation Strategies and Approaches for grasslands, there will be several opportunities for interested organizations and individuals to get involved! Please contact us if you might be interested in any of the following:

  • Reviewing draft versions of the adaptation menu.
  • Organizing workshops to test the menu in real grassland management projects.
  • Gathering feedback from grassland managers throughout the country.

Contact us for more information


This effort is led by the US Forest Service and the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science. We are working with partners at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and the University of Wisconsin-Madison to develop the grassland adaptation menu.