As the name states, grasslands are biomes that are known for having lots of grass. Grasslands are areas that have enough rainfall to allow for vegetation larger than shrubs, but not enough to support a forest.
Grasslands can be found in North America, South America, South Africa, Central Eurasia, and Australia. Depending on how you categorize grasslands, they cover 20-40% of the Earth’s landmass.
Grasslands are frequently found between forests and deserts. They have large, open spaces that become covered with grass.
The height of the grass is dependent on the amount of rainfall in the region. Trees can be found in some grasslands, but usually only near streams.
Types of Grasslands
There are two different types of grasslands: tropical and temperate.
Tropical grasslands are also called savannas. Some scientists consider savannas to be their own separate biome.
Temperate grasslands can be divided into prairies and steppes. Prairies have tall grasses and steppes have shorter grasses.
Precipitation and Temperature
The amount of rainfall in grasslands can vary year to year. It is usually between 10 and 40 inches per year.
Temperatures in grasslands can be extreme. Some grasslands have lows that are below freezing, while others have highs that can reach over 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Plants and Animals
Grasses make up the dominant vegetation in grasslands. They have roots that can extend three to six feet into the soil.
During winter grasses will die down to their roots. The soil will protect the roots until spring when new buds will appear.
During the spring many grasslands become covered with wildflowers. Examples of grasslands flowers are: sunflowers, clovers, and coneflowers.
Grasslands can support a broad variety of vegetation. These different species of vegetation provide a food source to the animals in the grasslands.
A variety of animals make their home in grasslands. Many of them are grazers, like zebras, giraffes, and deer. Others are burrowers or scavengers like prairie dogs, foxes, and badgers.
Fires play an important role in the health of grasslands. They can help keep the soil fertile, as well as limit the growth of non-grassland native species.
Threats to Grasslands
Because of their fertile soil, many grasslands have been converted to agricultural use. Farming and livestock grazing have taken over much of the area that was previously natural grassland.
Grasslands are also under threat from invasive species and climate change.
- Grasslands are found on every continent other than Antarctica
- Grasses in some grasslands can reach up to 7 feet tall
- Some grasslands can support 25 species of large plant-eating animals