Mediterranean grasslands (including rangelands, pastures, meadows, fodder crops) are important resources with an area covering up to 48 per cent of the whole Mediterranean region. Although these ecosystems have traditionally played an important role in the evolution of human societies, and are still the key element in the production of high quality animal products they have been considered merely as a mean for providing feed for domestic ruminants.
Grasslands are essentially providing ecosystem services such as forage production, biodiversity conservation, habitat for wildlife, carbon fixation, prevention of erosion and nutrient storage. Despite their ecological, economic and social importance they receive limited scientific and media attention on their conservation merits. This is mainly because they are widely perceived as degraded land suitable only for grazing.
A major shift in grassland science has to occur, from considering their main function as pastures with a specific focus on livestock production to a much broader concept of ecosystem services management. Sustainable management should be about striking a balance among environmental conservation, livestock production and socio-economic development.
The FAO-CIHEAM Inter-regional Cooperative Research and Development Sub-Network on Mediterranean Forage Resources, together with the Democritus University of Thrace - DUTH (Greece), the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki – AUTH (Greece) and the Hellenic Range and Pasture Society - HERPAS and the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza - IAMZ/CIHEAM (Spain), its 15th Meeting titled “Ecosystem services and socio-economic benefits of Mediterranean grasslands”. The Meeting will bring together scientists and specialists from countries of the Mediterranean regions, to present studies and to discuss research strategies and experiences allowing to face current challenges in grassland management.