Grassland

By: Jeb "The Jebinator" Buchanan

Overview of the Grassland Biome

The Grassland biome is one of the six major biomes on Earth. They consist of massive, rolling elevations of shrubs, grasses, herbs, and flowers. The types of plants that grow in grasslands depend on the latitude, soil, and localized climates of the particular grassland. Grasslands are better and more suited for fires than forests are because their plants grow from the bottom, as opposed to forests, which have top-growing plants.

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Location of the Grassland Biome

Grasslands are found on every continent except for Antarctica. Some major areas in the world where grasslands are found include the American and Canadian Great Plains, central and southern Africa, the Sahel (steppe on the Sahara Desert's edge), eastern Europe, northeastern China, Mongolia, southern Brazil, and the Australian Outback.

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Different Types of Grasslands

There are many types of grasslands all over the world. In Africa, there are tropical savannas that are very much alike grasslands. In wetter grasslands, there is a tendency to have taller grasses, and in drier climates, the grass is usually lower. This philosophy is very true for the North American Great Plains (especially the Midwestern U.S.) because in the western part of the Midwest, the climate is drier, so the grass is lower. However, in the eastern part of the Midwest, the climate is wetter, so the grass is generally higher. In African savannas, the grass can be very low or very high depending on the length of the wet season and the dry season.

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Climate

There is no one true climate for the grassland biome, but grasslands don't get enough rain to support trees (except by rivers and in savanna grasslands). In the temperate grasslands, about 15-30 inches of rain falls every year and is usually evenly distributed throughout the year. In tropical grasslands, there is usually more rain due to generally higher grasses in those regions, but there is mainly a wet season and a dry season. In the spring, there can be tornadoes, which are large, violent whirls of spinning air. These nasty storms are especially common in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas.


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Flora of the Grassland Biome

There are numerous species of grasses, shrubs, flowers, herbs, and some occasional trees in the grasslands. Grass is the main flora in the grassland biome, but in some areas, there are several species of flowers, including prairie rose, wild indigo, gumbo primrose, gumweed, and golden rod. These flowers are only found in the North American Prairies, southern and eastern China, and the northern part of the Pampas of South America. The two main reasons why flowers are not found in the other grasslands is because there is not enough rain to support the flowers, or the soil is too thin for them to grow. Grass has the adaptation of being a relatively cold-hardy plant since it grows from the bottom. However, during the winter, the tall grass is usually very short so it can stay healthy for spring. The shrubs maintain the adaptation of losing their leaves in the fall and keeping it that way for winter so it can grow and flourish during in the spring and summer without losing unnecessary energy and nutrients during the winter. Flowers have adaptations of having growing seasons in the biome, which are usually mid-April to early August, but the growing seasons for the flowers can start as early as early February and can end as late as late November. The trees, which are usually found by rivers in the biome, have the same adaptation as shrubs, which is to lose their leaves in the fall so they conserve energy in the winter. Herbs have an adaptation of being summer-growing plants, so they tend to lose their leaves earlier and get back their leaves later than shrubs or trees.


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Fauna of the Grassland Biome

There are many species of animals in the grasslands, including foxes, blue jays, plains bison, ground squirrels, aardvarks, and rattlesnakes. In this biome, the foxes eat the rabbits, mice, ground squirrels, and very rarely in massive packs, bison. Mice and ground squirrels compete for space and food (grass), while rattlesnakes and foxes compete only for food (rabbits, mice, ground squirrels). The Bison became adapted to the climate because of a very effective way to survive all the seasons, which is called fur shedding. In the winter, bison have a thick coat so they can stay warm, and in spring, they shed it in preparation for the hot summer. There is also intraspecific competition with the bison because in the summer, the large males fight to mate with a female by using their enormous horns on their head. Rattlesnakes adapted to the climate by eating a lot of food in the summer in order to have the fat to do the long winter hibernation. Foxes used the same thing as bison to adapt to the grassland, but they tend to shed slightly earlier than bison because they hunt, and the herbivores don't hunt. Ground squirrels have an adaptation of going underground and into their hole when they go for the winter hibernation or when they are being tracked down by predators. Rabbits have an excellent adaptation to the climate because they also shed in the spring and regain fur in the fall, but they also have terrific speed to outrun their predators.


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Ecological Concerns of the Grasslands

There are numerous threats to the grasslands today because of human activity. Most of the original grassland has been converted to farmland for growing plants on certain farms, such as wheat, fruit, and veggies. In the U.S., Canada, and Europe, the bison is an endangered species because the species nearly went extinct in the early 20th century because natives would hunt it for food, clothing, and others. However, thanks to some ecological preservation groups, bison are protected in many national parks all over the world today in these grasslands, including Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. The meerkats in the tropical grasslands are also endangered due to excessive poaching from hunters and fur trappers. The world needs grasslands so organisms can breathe fresh air and survive more naturally in the biome.


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Interesting Fact about the Grassland Biome

Grasslands are called prairies in North America, pampas (Argentina and Uruguay) and llanos (Venezuela) in South America, savannas in Africa, and steppes in Asia. These are all terms that are climate-describing of those areas. The savanna grasslands are very high, so as a result, the climate is wetter. The Asian steppe grasslands are quite low in height, which means that the climate is generally drier.


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Works Cited

Butler, Michael. 4 July 2006. Blueplanetsbiomes.org. http://www.blueplanetsbiomes.org/grasslands.html


Young, Shawn T. 6 October 2003. Biomesoftheworld.com. http://www.biomesoftheworld.com/grasslands/prairiesofnorthamerica.html