Savanna

A grassland Biome

By: Alexa O'Leary

Overview

A Savanna is a grassland biome that has multiple trees across its land. Many Savanna's are located in Africa and cover almost half of of Africa's land. They are always found in warm or hot climates that have heavy rainfall each year. The rainfall is between 20-60 inches per year in a Savanna. It is essential that rainfall is concentrated around 6 to 8 months out of the year followed by a large drought. This allows fires to occur which help the land remove and harmful waste that is present. If Savanna’s have steady rainfall throughout the year it would turn into a tropical rainforest. Certain animals like Elephants help maintain the land by eating leaves and knocking down dead trees for their bark. The soil found in Savanna’s is very porous which helps drain water very fast. It doesn’t contain much nutrients except a thin layer of decomposition called humus.


Climate

Over the past 100 years there has been an increase in the number of extremely hot day, mainly in Africa, and a decrease in the amount of very cold days each year. These hot and dry days lead to more derived and climatic savannas to occur. Another impact on savannas is the decrease of precipitation each year which causes dry spells for the organisms living on savannas. Rising sea levels and tropical storms in recent years have also lead to large gusts of wind and storm surges. All of these climate changes have significant impacts on savannas. If the ocean levels continue to rise there will be an increase in salt water precipitation and the organisms that live on savannas are going to have a very hard time adapting to these changes. Much of the vegetation that is present on savannas will likely die due to the extreme droughts and dry weather. Of course we aren’t going to see savannas around the world experience these changes tomorrow, but if the climate continues to change in this direction we will see these effects in the future.

Climate change over time and the affect on trees in a savanna

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Vegitation & Animals

Life on the African Savanna

vegitation

Much of the vegetation present on a savanna is large thick clumps of grass and bare ground. There are many types of grasses that grow on a savanna like elephant grass, which can grow to be 10ft tall. Since rainfall only happens for half of the year only a few trees can survive on a savanna. Trees like the baobab tree and the acada tree grow and provide animals with food. The acada tree looks like an umbrella with small flowers on it’s branches. This type of tree is very popular among giraffes because it supplies them with food that they can reach.

Adaptation

Many plants including trees and grasses have adapted very well to the dry periods that happen during the year. Many trees have very long thick roots that grow down far enough to soak up water from the soil during these dry periods. These roots are also beneficial when wildfires happen because the roots are undamaged and regrow. Grasses also survive the dry periods very well. They go dormant so stop growing when no water is available and then grow very fast in the summer when there is plenty of water available. The boaba tree (as shown above) grows flowers all year round because it stores water between its bark and the inner part of the tree.

Defenses

Many plants also have their own defenses for animals that try to feed on them. The acada tree for example, sends a bad taste to it’s leaves so animals can only take a few bites before tasting something terrible and leaving. However over time many of these animals called grazers have adapted to these defense. Some of them learn to eat around thorns or special defences that plants produce.
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Depending on the climate that a grassland is located, there are different animals that roam its area. In a temperate grassland there is less diversity of wildlife, but more of certain species. They include bison, gophers, prairie dogs, and coyotes just to name a few.


In many of the Great Plains and the African Savanna’s there are many large mammals that can weigh from 6 tons and measure as long as 24 feet. These mammals are as diverse as elephants and rhinos to gazelles and zebras. They help graze the land and keep plants and trees under control.


Predators come in high numbers in a grassland environment. Many lions and cheetahs use their fast speed to catch prey and ultimately dominate the land. Coyotes and wolves feed on roaming prey that inhabits their land. However many populations of predators have declined because of illegal hunting.


Small mammals like gophers and rabbits also call many grasslands home. They keep insects and small organism populations under control by feeding off of them.
Birds such as hawks, vultures and owls feed off of the remaining prey from other animals. The world’s biggest ostrich called the Struthio camelus inhabits the african grasslands. These birds are incredibly fast runners and are very strong. Insects like the bumble bee, butterfly, and grasshoppers find warmth and shelter in the tall grasses in the savannas.

Adaptations

  • Animals like bison have flat teeth that help them eat and digest grass better
  • Prairie animals have front legs and paws the help them burrow holes for shelter
  • Many animals are nocturnal and have adapted to see prey much easier at night
  • Smaller animals have fur that blends in with their surrounding areas

About the Author

I am a high school junior that is very interested in science and a career as a nurse. I hope to attend college somewhere warm that has a very large campus. My main goal to gain from biology this year is to understand more about how everything no matter how small influences other things around it. I enjoyed working on this project to gain more knowlage of a biome that I knew little about. It helped me realize that every organism in a particular biome plays a crucial role in how that biome functions.

Sources

Websites and Journals

Pullen, S. (2004, April). The Grassland Biome. Retrieved May 16, 2016, from http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/glossary/gloss5/biome/grassland.html

ABIOTIC FACTORS. (2010). Retrieved May 16, 2016, from https://tropicalgrassland.wordpress.com/abiotic-factors/

School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2016, from https://askabiologist.asu.edu/plants-savanna

Animals in Grassland Areas. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2016, from http://animals.mom.me/animals-grassland-areas-5280.html

Prairie:Ecosystems:Animals:Adaptations. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2016, from http://www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/prairie/htmls/eco_an_adapt.html

Videos and Pictures

S. (2015). Life on the African Savanna. Retrieved May 16, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bQNRVyI4I0

Savannah land. (n.d.). Retrieved from

http://old.icraf.org/sites/default/files/Daniel Tiveau CIFOR - Sahel.jpg?1353932286

Original Arizona. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/11114/111144301/4289477-arizona.jpg

Elephant Savanna. (n.d.). Retrieved from

http://www.enn.com/image_for_articles/44604-1.jpg/medium

Massai Mara National Park. (n.d.). Retrieved from

http://api-v1.viator-workspace.com/image/226/133/ed8c/Masai Mara Nationalpark - Kenia.jpg

Wildebeeest. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://tropicalgrassland.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/wildebeeest.png?w=500&h=182

Dessert Trees & Sand plant mountains. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://wallpaperscraft.com/image/desert_trees_sand_plants_mountains_14591_3840x2400.jpg

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https://i2.wp.com/i52.tinypic.com/106lp4k.png

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http://3.bp.blogspot.com/Y4ax9CG2uPI/Vg0WnwbEPyI/AAAAAAAAH0E/h49niyOBuCk/s640/44456.jpg

Catena. (n.d.). Retrieved from

http://www.shaunlevick.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/catena.png

Tree Savanna. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/files/treesavanna.jpg

Tribal land. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://aaportfoliodrieswijckmans.weebly.com/uploads/4/0/2/4/40241477/ppt-verschillen_in_agrarische_regios.pdf

Trend Map 2. (n.d.). Retrieved from

http://www.savanna.org.au/images/Trend map2.jpg

Savanna grazing. (n.d.). Retrieved from

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-MBl3nUxCiA/VGvhOgglc8I/AAAAAAAAARs/X7eZfICttJ8/w1600-h1056/94366-050-472C4EAC.jpg

Grassland Animals. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.mbgnet.net/sets/grasslnd/animals/ganhead.jpg

African Savanna. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2016, from http://www.pittsburghzoo.org/animallist.aspx?c=2

Home. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2016, from

https://room42.wikispaces.com/Savanna Animals?responseToken=fed5499726255f95b8799a596fcc02ee

D… Savanna Animals. (2008). Retrieved May 16, 2016, from https://savannaenvironment.wordpress.com/african-animals/

Endangered Plants & Animals of the African Savanna. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2016, from http://traveltips.usatoday.com/endangered-plants-animals-african-savanna-63668.html

Plants and Animals of the Savannah. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2016, from http://savannahprojectwebsite.weebly.com/plants-and-animals-of-the-savannah.html

What rhymes with methanogen? (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2016, from http://expertmy.biz/2016/04/28/what-rhymes-with-methanogen.html