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WWF works to sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife, collaborating with partners from local to global levels in nearly 100 countries.
Every year, trillions of gallons of rainfall and snowmelt pour into the grasslands of the Northern Great Plains. Much of that water winds up in the Missouri River, where it becomes drinking water for millions of people. But the role the grasslands play in capturing all that liquid is often poorly understood. Enter the rainfall simulator: a tool designed to connect those dots.
One acre of intact, unplowed, healthy grassland is believed to store thousands of gallons of water that would otherwise be lost. With grassland temperatures and droughts on the rise, keeping moisture in the soil is a big priority for ranchers and farmers. Returning to more natural ways of managing the landscape—involving less tilling and water loss—is good for both people and wildlife such as pollinators, pronghorn antelope, and plants.
Intact grasslands in the Northern Great Plains are rapidly disappearing. In 2014 alone, 1.4 million acres—an area roughly the size of Delaware—were converted into farmland for crops such as corn and soy.
Water loss Without a thick mat of vegetation to pull moisture into the soil, the soil can’t capture as much water.
Emissions Vast amounts of carbon stored in the root systems of native grasses are released into the atmosphere.
Habitat loss The region’s grassland birds and other wildlife lose critical habitat.
More than 75% of the Northern Great Plains is privately owned. Many of those landowners are ranchers who require intact, healthy grasslands to maintain their livelihoods. WWF is building partnerships with the region’s ranchers to help them find more sustainable—and more profitable—ways to produce their livestock.