Grasslands

By Karl Jacobi

Grasslands are generally a biome that consist of tall grasses and few, if any trees, with rolling hills. They are located on five out of the seven continents and each is slightly different. They are filled with fertile soil, temperate temperatures, and a low to moderate amount of rain.

Climate

The climate can of a grassland is a key factor that make it such a distinguishable biome. Grasslands are greatly dependent on precipitation. Different types include tall-grass short grass the first having more precipitation than latter. Temperatures can rise above 100° F in the summer and can drop down to -40° F in the coldest months of the year. These temperatures are the extremes for grasslands, but most have an average climate. Grasslands have periods of dry and wet. Fires are common during hot dry summers.

Flora and Fauna

Grasslands are teeming with life from the grasses that grow abundantly all the way up to large mammals like elephants and bison. The plants and animals are characteristic parts of grasslands

Animals

They are many different grasslands and in each one there are different animals. For example the African savannah has zebras, elephants, and cheetahs. In North America the prairie has bison and prairie dogs. The steppes of Eurasia have animals such as the Saiga antelope (below) and the northern lynx. These animals all have adapted to their own ecosystem. The saiga antelope has a large nose which was specially developed for the cold and dusty environment in which it lives. Cheetahs distinctive spots are a form of camouflage. Prairie dogs have teeth special designed to eat tough grass that grows in the prairie. Zebras' digestive system is suited to handle the tough grasses. Bison, also known as buffalo, have long fur coats for the harsh winters that they may experience. In the savannah the big cats compete for zebras, antelope, and other grazing animals. Wolves and falcons of the Eurasian steppes both compete for the hares that live there. On the American prairie, prairie dogs may hide underground, but snakes still consume them.

Plants

While animals are abundant on grasslands the first seen organism are the plants especially the grasses. Different grasses grow in each one. The North American prairie has big bluestem grass which grows in large dense groups to deprive other grasses of sunlight. Another grass that also grows on the prairie, buffalo grass, has burrs which latch onto animals. Tumbleweed is found in grasslands of North America and Eurasia. When it dies, it dries up and the wind blows the plant and its seeds. Little do people know that the iconic plant in American Westerns is actually an invasive species known as the Russian thistle. Fringed sagebrush also grows on grasslands and has a specialized root system designed for the low levels of water that it can experience. The baobab tree (below) has a thick fire-resistant trunk that stores water for 9 months of the year during the dry season.


Ecological concerns

These diverse biomes with a multitude of life are in danger. Animals that are found no where else in the world are hunted to near extinction. The large area that natural grasslands once covered have shrunk due to the farming that is taking place on its fertile soil. Iconic animals such as the giraffe and rhinoceros are disappearing and are now classified as endangered. These biomes are important to humans as a center for agriculture.

Bibliography

"Grassland Threats." National Geographic. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2013.

"Grasslands Biome." Grasslands Biome. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2013.

"Grassland." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Sept. 2013. Web. 16 Sept. 2013.