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Nachusa Grasslands, spring 2016 Nachusa Grasslands Spring 2016.jpg
Nachusa Grasslands, spring 2016
Setaria pumila, a species of Poaceae (the dominant plant family in grasslands) Setaria pumila 20141024.jpg
Setaria pumila , a species of Poaceae (the dominant plant family in grasslands)

Grasslands are areas where the vegetation is dominated by grasses (Poaceae). However, sedge (Cyperaceae) and rush (Juncaceae) can also be found along with variable proportions of legumes, like clover, and other herbs. Grasslands occur naturally on all continents except Antarctica and are found in most ecoregions of the Earth. Furthermore, grasslands are one of the largest biomes on earth and dominate the landscape worldwide. [1] There are different types of grasslands: natural grasslands, semi-natural grasslands, and agricultural grasslands. [1] They cover 31–69% of the Earth's land area. [2] [3]



Coxilhas (hills covered by grasslands) in the Pampas, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil. Coxilhas.jpg
Coxilhas (hills covered by grasslands) in the Pampas, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil.

There is a variety of definitions for grasslands:

Semi-natural grasslands are a very common subcategory of the grasslands biome. [4] These can be defined as:

They can also be described as the following:

There are many different types of semi-natural grasslands, e.g. hay meadows. [8]

Evolutionary history

The graminoids are among the most versatile life forms. They became widespread toward the end of the Cretaceous period, and coprolites of fossilized dinosaur feces have been found containing phytoliths of a variety of grasses that include grasses that are related to modern rice and bamboo.

The appearance of mountains in the western United States during the Miocene and Pliocene epochs, a period of some 25 million years, created a continental climate favourable to the evolution of grasslands. [9]

Around 5 million years ago during the Late Miocene in the New World and the Pliocene in the Old World, the first true grasslands occurred. Existing forest biomes declined, and grasslands became much more widespread. It is known that grasslands have existed in Europe throughout the Pleistocene (the last 1.8 million years). [8] Following the Pleistocene ice ages (with their glacials and interglacials), grasslands expanded in the hotter, drier climates, and began to become the dominant land feature worldwide. [9] Since the grasslands have existed for over 1.8 million years, there is high variability. For example steppe-tundra dominated in Northern and Central Europe whereas a higher amount of xerothermic grasslands occurred in the Mediterranean area. [8] Within temperate Europe, the range of types is quite wide and also became unique due to the exchange of species and genetic material between different biomes.

The semi-natural grasslands first appeared when humans started farming. So for the use of agriculture, forests got cleared in Europe. Ancient meadows and pastures were the parts that were suitable for cultivation. The semi-natural grasslands were formed from these areas. [8] However, there's also evidence for the local persistence of natural grasslands in Europe, originally maintained by wild herbivores, throughout the pre-neolithic Holocene. [10] The removal of the plants by the grazing animals and later the mowing farmers led to co-existence of other plant species around. In the following, the biodiversity of the plants evolve. Also, the species that already lived there adapted to the new conditions. [8]

Most of the grassland areas have been turned to arable fields and disappeared again.

Nowadays, semi-natural grasslands are rather located in areas that are unsuitable for agricultural farming. [8]



Grasslands dominated by unsown wild-plant communities ("unimproved grasslands") can be called either natural or "semi-natural" habitat. Although their plant communities are natural, their maintenance depends upon anthropogenic activities such as grazing and cutting regimes. The semi-natural grasslands contain many species of wild plants, including grasses, sedges, rushes, and herbs; 25 plant-species per 100 square centimeters can be found. [8] A European record that was found on a meadow in Estonia described 76 species of plants in one square meter. [8] Chalk downlands in England can support over 40 species per square meter.

Black rhino Black rhino with calf (male).jpeg
Black rhino

In many parts of the world, few examples have escaped agricultural improvement (fertilizing, weed killing, plowing, or re-seeding). For example, original North American prairie grasslands or lowland wildflower meadows in the UK are now rare and their associated wild flora equally threatened. Associated with the wild-plant diversity of the "unimproved" grasslands is usually a rich invertebrate fauna; there are also many species of birds that are grassland "specialists", such as the snipe and the little bustard. [11] Owing to semi-natural grasslands being referred to as one of the most-species rich ecosystems in the world and essential habitat for many specialists, also including pollinators, [7] there are many approaches to conservation activities lately.

Agriculturally improved grasslands, which dominate modern intensive agricultural landscapes, are usually poor in wild plant species due to the original diversity of plants having been destroyed by cultivation and by the use of fertilizers.

Almost 90% of the European semi-natural grasslands do not exist anymore due to political and economic reasons. This loss only took place during the 20th century. [6] The ones in Western and Central Europe have almost disappeared completely. There are a few left in Northern Europe. [6]

Unfortunately, a large amount of red-listed species are specialists of semi-natural grasslands and are affected by the landscape change due to agriculture of the last century. [12]

The original wild-plant communities having been replaced by sown monocultures of cultivated varieties of grasses and clovers, such as perennial ryegrass and white clover. In many parts of the world, "unimproved" grasslands are one of the most threatened types of habitat, and a target for acquisition by wildlife conservation groups or for special grants to landowners who are encouraged to manage them appropriately.


Quercus robur -also known as the English oak- dominating the semi-natural grasslands Quercus robur 'Pendula'.JPG
Quercus robur -also known as the English oak- dominating the semi-natural grasslands

Grassland vegetation can vary considerably depending on the grassland type and on how strong it is affected by human impact. Dominant trees for the semi-natural grassland are Quercus robur , Betula pendula , Corylus avellana , Crataegus and many kinds of herbs. [13]

In chalk grassland, the plants can vary from height to very short. Quite tall grasses can be found in North American tallgrass prairie, South American grasslands, and African savanna. Woody plants, shrubs or trees may occur on some grasslands – forming savannas, scrubby grassland or semi-wooded grassland, such as the African savannas or the Iberian deheza. [14]

As flowering plants and trees, grasses grow in great concentrations in climates where annual rainfall ranges between 500 and 900 mm (20 and 35 in). [15] The root systems of perennial grasses and forbs form complex mats that hold the soil in place.


mountain plover Mountain Plover, Charadrius montanus.jpg
mountain plover

Grasslands support the greatest aggregations of large animals on earth, including jaguars, African wild dogs, pronghorn, black-footed ferret, plains bison, mountain plover, African elephant, Sunda tiger, black rhino, white rhino, savanna elephant, greater one-horned rhino, Indian elephant and swift fox. Grazing animals, herd animals, and predators in grasslands, like lions and cheetahs live in the grasslands of the African savanna. [16] Mites, insect larvae nematodes, and earthworms inhabit deep soil, which can reach 6 meters underground in undisturbed grasslands on the richest soils of the world. These invertebrates, along with symbiotic fungi, extend the root systems, break apart hard soil, enrich it with urea and other natural fertilizers, trap minerals and water and promote growth. Some types of fungi make the plants more resistant to insect and microbial attacks. [17]

cheetah Cheetah Brothers AdF.jpg

Grassland in all its form supports a vast variety of mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects. Typical large mammals include the blue wildebeest, American bison, giant anteater, and Przewalski's horse. [18]

The plants and animals that live in grasslands are connected through an unlimited web of interactions. But the removal of key species—such as buffalo and prairie dogs within the American West—and introduction of invasive species, like cane toads in northern Australia, have disrupted the balance in these ecosystems and damaged a number of other species. [16] Grasslands are home to a number of the foremost magnificent animals on the planet - elephants, bison, lions - and hunters have found them to be enticing prey. But when hunting isn't controlled or is conducted illegally, species can become extinct. [16]

Ecosystem Services

Grasslands provide a range of marketed and nonmarketed ecosystem services.

Carbon Sequestration

Grasslands hold about 20 percent of global soil carbon stocks. [2] Herbaceous (non-wooded) vegetation dominates grasslands and, unlike forests, carbon is stored in the roots and soil underground. Furthermore, this above-ground biomass carbon is relatively short-lived due to grazing, fire, and senescence. In contrast, grassland species have an extensive fibrous root system, with grasses often accounting for 60-80% of the biomass carbon in this ecosystem. This underground biomass can extend several meters below the surface and store abundant carbon into the soil, resulting in deep, fertile soils with high organic matter content. For this reason, soil carbon accounts for about 81% of the total ecosystem carbon in grasslands. The close link between soil carbon and underground biomass leads to similar responses of these carbon pools to fluctuations in annual precipitation and temperature on a broad spatial scale. Because plant productivity is limited by grassland precipitation, carbon stocks are highest in regions where precipitation is heaviest, such as the high grass prairie in the humid temperate region of the United States. Similarly, as annual temperatures rise, grassland carbon stocks decrease due to increased evapotranspiration. [19]

Grasslands have suffered large losses of organic carbon due to soil disturbances, vegetation degradation, fires, erosion, nutrient deficiencies, and water shortages. The type, frequency and intensity of the disturbance can play a key role in the soil organic carbon (SOC) balance of grasslands. Bedrock, irrigation practices, soil acidification, liming, and pasture management can all have potential impacts on grassland organic carbon stocks. [20]

Good grassland management can reverse historical soil carbon losses. [2] [21] The relationship of improved biodiversity with carbon storage is subject of research. [22]

Other ecosystem services


Grasslands are among the most threatened ecosystems. [24] According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the most significant threat to grasslands is human land use, especially agriculture and mining. [25]


Land use intensification

Grasslands have an extensive history of human activity and disturbance. [26] To feed a growing human population, most of the world's grasslands are converted from natural landscapes to fields of corn, wheat or other crops. Grasslands that have remained largely intact thus far, like East African savannas, are in danger of being lost to agriculture. [16] Grasslands are very sensitive to disturbances, such as people hunting and killing key species, or plowing the land to make more space for farms.

Grassland vegetation is often a plagioclimax; it remains dominant in a particular area usually due to grazing, cutting, or natural or man-made fires, all discouraging colonization by and survival of tree and shrub seedlings. [27] Some of the world's largest expanses of grassland are found in the African savanna, and these are maintained by wild herbivores as well as by nomadic pastoralists and their cattle, sheep or goats. Grasslands have an impact on climate change by slower decomposition rates of litter compared to forest environments. [28]

Main land-cover trajectories from the 1960s to 2015 Main land-cover trajectories from the 1960s to 2015.jpg
Main land-cover trajectories from the 1960s to 2015

Grasslands may occur naturally or as a result of human activity. Hunting cultures around the world often set regular fires to maintain and extend grasslands and prevent fire-intolerant trees and shrubs from taking hold. The tallgrass prairies in the U.S. Midwest may have been extended eastward into Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio by human agency. Much grassland in northwest Europe developed after the Neolithic Period when people gradually cleared the forest to create areas for raising their livestock. [29]

Climate change

Grasslands often occur in areas with annual precipitation is between 600 mm (24 in) and 1,500 mm (59 in) and average mean annual temperatures ranges from −5 and 20 °C. [30] However, some grasslands occur in colder (−20 °C) and hotter (30 °C) climatic conditions. Grassland can exist in habitats that are frequently disturbed by grazing or fire, as such disturbance prevents the encroachment of woody species. [31] Species richness is particularly high in grasslands of low soil fertility such as serpentine barrens and calcareous grasslands, where woody encroachment is prevented as low nutrient levels in the soil may inhibit the growth of forest and shrub species. Another common predicament often experienced by the ill-fated grassland creatures is the constant burning of plants, fueled by oxygen and many expired photosynthesizing organisms, with the lack of rain pushing this problem to further heights. [32] When not limited by other factors, increasing CO2 concentration in the air increases plant growth, similarly as water use efficiency, which is very important in drier regions. However, the advantages of elevated CO2 are limited by factors including water availability and available nutrients, particularly nitrogen. Thus effects of elevated CO2 on plant growth will vary with local climate patterns, species adaptations to water limitations, and nitrogen availability. Studies indicate that nutrient depletion may happen faster in drier regions, and with factors like plant community composition and grazing. Nitrogen deposition from air pollutants and increased mineralization from higher temperatures can increase plant productivity, but increases are often among a discount in biodiversity as faster-growing plants outcompete others. A study of a California grassland found that global change may speed reductions in diversity and forb species are most prone to this process. [19]

Afforestation or introduction of invasive species

Misguided afforestation efforts, for example as part of the global effort to increase carbon sequestration, can harm grasslands and their core ecosystem services. [33] [34] A map created by the World Resources Institute in collaboration with the IUCN identifies 2 billion hectares for potential forest restoration. It is criticised for including 900 million hectares of grasslands. [35] [36] It is expected that non-native grasses will continue to outperform native species under warmer and drier conditions that occur in many grasslands due to climate change. [37]


The type of land management used in grasslands can also lead to grassland loss/degradation. Many grasslands and other open ecosystems depend on disturbances such as wildfires, controlled burns and/or grazing to persist, although this subject is still controversial. [38] A study in Brazilian Subtropical Highland Grasslands found that grasslands without traditional land management - which uses fire every two years and extensive cattle grazing - can disappear within 30 years. [39] This study showed that grasslands inside protected areas, in which fire is not allowed and cattle grazing is banned, grasslands were quickly replaced by shrubs (shrub encroachment).

Types of degradation

Land cover change

Land cover has always changed during the years. The following relates to the changes between 1960 and 2015. There has been a decrease in semi-natural grasslands and an increase in areas with arable land, forest and land used for infrastructure and buildings. The line style and relative thickness of the lines indicates the percentage of the total area that changed. Changes less than 1% and land-cover classes with all changes less than 1% (i.e. semi-natural wetlands and water) are not included. [12]

In 1960 most of the land, 49.7%, was covered with forest and there was also more semi-natural grassland (18.8%) than arable land (15.8%). In 2015 this has changed drastically. The forest cover has increased (50.8%) and arable land has also increased (20.4%), but the semi-natural grassland cover has decreased. Although it still covers a large area of the earth (10.6%). [12]

A quarter of semi-natural grassland was lost through intensification, i.e. it was converted into arable or pasture land and forests. [40] It is more likely that intensification will occur in flat semi-natural grasslands, especially if the soil is fertile. On the other hand, grasslands, where the land is drought-prone or less productive, are more likely to persist as semi-natural grasslands than grasslands with fertile soil and low gradient of the terrain. [41] Furthermore, the accessibility of the land is also important, as it is then easier to fertilize, for example. For instance, if it is located near a road. With the development of technology, it is becoming increasingly easy to cultivate land with a steeper gradient, to the detriment of grasslands. The management of grasslands is also changing permanently. There is increased use of mineral fertilizers, furthermore borders and field edges are removed to enlarge fields and leveling the terrain to facilitate the use of agricultural machinery. [12]

The professional study of dry grasslands falls under the category of rangeland management, which focuses on ecosystem services associated with the grass-dominated arid and semi-arid rangelands of the world. Rangelands account for an estimated 70% of the earth's landmass; thus, many cultures including those of the United States are indebted to the economics that the world's grasslands have to offer, from producing grazing animals, tourism, ecosystems services such as clean water and air, and energy extraction. [42]

Vast areas of grassland are affected by woody encroachment, which is the expansion of woody plants at the expense of the herbaceous layer. Woody encroachment is caused by a combination of human impact (e.g. fire exclusion, overstocking and resulting overgrazing) and environmental factors (i.e. increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere). It can have severe negative consequences on key ecosystem services, like land productivity and groundwater recharge.

Conservation and restoration

Despite growing recognition of the importance of grasslands, understanding of restoration options remains limited. [43] Cost of grassland retoration is highly variable and respective data is scarce. [44] Successful grassland restoration has several dimensions, including recognition in policy, standardisation of indicators of degradation, scientific innovation, knowledge transfer and data sharing. [45]

Restoration methods and measures include the following: [46]

For the period 2021–2030 the United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the UN Decade on Restoration, involving a joint resolution by over 70 countries. It is led by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization. [48]

Types of grasslands

Meadow by the Desna river in Ukraine Desna river Vinn meadow 2016 G2.jpg
Meadow by the Desna river in Ukraine

Classifications of grassland

Grassland types by Schimper (1898, 1903): [49]

Grassland types by Ellenberg and Mueller-Dombois (1967): [50]

Formation-class V. Terrestrial herbaceous communities

  1. Savannas and related grasslands (tropical or subtropical grasslands and parklands)
  2. Steppes and related grasslands (e.g. North American "prairies" etc.)
  3. Meadows, pastures or related grasslands
  4. Sedge swamps and flushes
  5. Herbaceous and half-woody salt swamps
  6. Forb vegetation
    A hike through the Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park in Canada Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park (29237722250).jpg
    A hike through the Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park in Canada

Grassland types by Laycock (1979): [51]

  1. Tallgrass (true) prairie
  2. Shortgrass prairie
  3. Mixed-grass prairie
  4. Shrub steppe
  5. Annual grassland
  6. Desert (arid) grassland
  7. High mountain grassland

General grasslands types

Tropical and subtropical

These grasslands can be classified as the tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas and shrublands biome. The rainfall level for that grassland type is between 90 and 150 centimeters per year. Grasses and scattered trees are common for that ecoregion, as well as large mammals, such as wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) and zebra (Equus zebra). Notable tropical and subtropical grasslands include the Llanos grasslands of South America. [52]

Cumberland Plain Woodland, a grassy woodland that covers Western Sydney Western Sydney (Badgerys Creek) Airport site - Longleys Rd.JPG
Cumberland Plain Woodland, a grassy woodland that covers Western Sydney


Mid-latitude grasslands, including the prairie and Pacific grasslands of North America, the Pampas of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, calcareous downland, and the steppes of Europe. They are classified with temperate savannas and shrublands as the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome. Temperate grasslands are the home to many large herbivores, such as bison, gazelles, zebras, rhinoceroses, and wild horses. Carnivores like lions, wolves, cheetahs and leopards are also found in temperate grasslands. Other animals of this region include deer, prairie dogs, mice, jack rabbits, skunks, coyotes, snakes, foxes, owls, badgers, blackbirds, grasshoppers, meadowlarks, sparrows, quails, hawks and hyenas. [53]


Grasslands that are flooded seasonally or year-round, like the Everglades of Florida, the Pantanal of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay or the Esteros del Ibera in Argentina, are classified with flooded savannas as the flooded grasslands and savannas biome and occur mostly in the tropics and subtropics. The species that live in these grasslands are well adapted to the hydrologic regimes and soil conditions. The Everglades - the world's largest rain-fed flooded grassland - is rich in 11,000 species of seed-bearing plants, 25 species of orchids, 300 bird species, and 150 fish species.

Water-meadows are grasslands that are deliberately flooded for short periods. [54]

Grassland in the Antelope Valley, California AntelopeValleyCAgrassland.JPG
Grassland in the Antelope Valley, California


High-altitude grasslands located on high mountain ranges around the world, like the Páramo of the Andes Mountains. They are part of the montane grasslands and shrublands biome and can be tropical, subtropical, and temperate. The plants and animals, that can be found in the tropical montane, are able to adapt to cool, wet conditions as well as intense sunlight. [55]

Tundra grasslands

Similar to montane grasslands, polar Arctic tundra can have grasses, but high soil moisture means that few tundras are grass-dominated today. However, during the Pleistocene glacial periods (commonly referred to as ice ages), a grassland known as steppe-tundra or mammoth steppe occupied large areas of the Northern Hemisphere. These areas were very cold and arid and featured sub-surface permafrost (hence tundra) but were nevertheless productive grassland ecosystems supporting a wide variety of fauna. As the temperature increased and the climate became wetter at the beginning of the Holocene much of the mammoth steppe transitioned to forest, while the drier parts in central Eurasia remained as a grassland, becoming the modern Eurasian steppe. [56]

Desert and xeric

Also called desert grasslands, they are composed of sparse grassland ecoregions located in the deserts and xeric shrublands biome. Temperature extremes and low amount of rainfall characterise these kinds of grasslands. Therefore, plants and animals are well adapted to minimize water loss. [57]

Temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands ecoregions

The grassland ecoregions of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome are:

Al Hajar montane woodlands Oman, United Arab Emirates
Amsterdam and Saint-Paul Islands temperate grasslands Amsterdam Island, Saint-Paul Island
Tristan da Cunha–Gough Islands shrub and grasslands Tristan da Cunha, Gough Island
Canterbury–Otago tussock grasslands New Zealand
Eastern Australia mulga shrublands Australia
Southeast Australia temperate savanna Australia
California Central Valley grasslands United States
Canadian aspen forests and parklands Canada, United States
Central and Southern mixed grasslands United States
Central forest–grasslands transition United States
Central tall grasslands United States
Columbia Plateau United States
Edwards Plateau savanna United States
Flint Hills tall grasslands United States
Montana valley and foothill grasslands United States
Nebraska Sand Hills mixed grasslands United States
Northern mixed grasslands Canada, United States
Northern short grasslands Canada, United States
Northern tall grasslands Canada, United States
Palouse grasslands United States
Texas blackland prairies United States
Western short grasslands United States
Argentine Espinal Argentina
Argentine Monte Argentina
Humid Pampas Argentina, Uruguay
Patagonian grasslands Argentina, Chile
Patagonian steppe Argentina, Chile
Semi-arid Pampas Argentina
Alai–Western Tian Shan steppe Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
Altai steppe and semi-desert Kazakhstan
Central Anatolian steppe Turkey
Daurian forest steppe China, Mongolia, Russia
Eastern Anatolian montane steppe Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Turkey
Emin Valley steppe China, Kazakhstan
Faroe Islands boreal grasslands Faroe Islands, Denmark
Gissaro–Alai open woodlands Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
Kazakh forest steppe Kazakhstan, Russia
Kazakh steppe Kazakhstan, Russia
Kazakh Uplands Kazakhstan
Mongolian–Manchurian grassland China, Mongolia, Russia
Pontic steppe Kazakhstan, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria
Sayan Intermontane steppe Russia
Selenge–Orkhon forest steppe Mongolia, Russia
South Siberian forest steppe Russia
Syrian xeric grasslands and shrublands Iraq, Jordan, Syria
Tian Shan foothill arid steppe China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan

Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands ecoregions

Angolan miombo woodlands Angola
Angolan mopane woodlands Angola, Namibia
Ascension scrub and grasslands Ascension Island
Central Zambezian miombo woodlands Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia
East Sudanian savanna Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda
Eastern miombo woodlands Mozambique, Tanzania
Guinean forest–savanna mosaic Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo
Itigi–Sumbu thicket Tanzania, Zambia
Kalahari Acacia-Baikiaea woodlands Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe
Mandara Plateau mosaic Cameroon, Nigeria
Northern Acacia–Commiphora bushlands and thickets Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Uganda
Northern Congolian forest–savanna mosaic Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Uganda
Sahelian Acacia savanna Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan
Serengeti volcanic grasslands Kenya, Tanzania
Somali Acacia–Commiphora bushlands and thickets Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia
South Arabian fog woodlands, shrublands, and dune Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
Southern Acacia–Commiphora bushlands and thickets Kenya, Tanzania
Southern Africa bushveld Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe
Southern Congolian forest–savanna mosaic Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Southern miombo woodlands Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Saint Helena scrub and woodlands Saint Helena
Victoria Basin forest–savanna mosaic Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda
West Sudanian savanna Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea,Mali, Ivory Coast, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal
Western Congolian forest–savanna mosaic Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo
Western Zambezian grasslands Angola, Zambia
Zambezian and mopane woodlands Botswana, eSwatini (Swaziland), Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Zambezian Baikiaea woodlands Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Arnhem Land tropical savanna Australia
Brigalow tropical savanna Australia
Cape York Peninsula tropical savanna Australia
Carpentaria tropical savanna Australia
Einasleigh Uplands savanna Australia
Kimberley tropical savanna Australia
Mitchell grass downs Australia
Trans-Fly savanna and grasslands Indonesia, Papua New Guinea
Victoria Plains tropical savanna Australia
Terai–Duar savanna and grasslands Bhutan, India, Nepal
Western Gulf coastal grasslands Mexico, United States
Beni savanna Bolivia
Campos rupestres Brazil
Cerrado Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay
Clipperton Island shrub and grasslandsClipperton Island is an overseas territory of France
Córdoba montane savanna Argentina
Guianan savanna Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela
Gran Chaco Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia
Llanos Venezuela, Colombia
Uruguayan savanna Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay
Hawaiian tropical high shrublands Hawaiʻi
Hawaiian tropical low shrublands Hawaiʻi
Northwestern Hawaii scrub Hawaiʻi, Midway Atoll

See also

Related Research Articles

Biome Community of organisms associated with an environment

A biome is a biogeographical unit consisting of a biological community that has formed in response to a shared regional climate. Biomes may span more than one continent. Biome is a broader term than habitat and can comprise a variety of habitats.

Steppe Ecoregion of plain grasslands without trees

In physical geography, a steppe is an ecoregion characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes.

Prairie Ecosystems considered part of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome

Prairies are ecosystems considered part of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome by ecologists, based on similar temperate climates, moderate rainfall, and a composition of grasses, herbs, and shrubs, rather than trees, as the dominant vegetation type. Temperate grassland regions include the Pampas of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, and the steppe of Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan. Lands typically referred to as "prairie" tend to be in North America. The term encompasses the area referred to as the Interior Lowlands of Canada, the United States, and Mexico, which includes all of the Great Plains as well as the wetter, hillier land to the east.

Temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands Terrestrial biome

Temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands is a terrestrial biome defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature. The predominant vegetation in this biome consists of grass and/or shrubs. The climate is temperate and ranges from semi-arid to semi-humid. The habitat type differs from tropical grasslands in the annual temperature regime as well as the types of species found here.

Savanna Mixed woodland-grassland ecosystem

A savanna or savannah is a mixed woodland-grassland ecosystem characterised by the trees being sufficiently widely spaced so that the canopy does not close. The open canopy allows sufficient light to reach the ground to support an unbroken herbaceous layer consisting primarily of grasses.

Deserts and xeric shrublands Habitat type defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature

Deserts and xeric shrublands are a biome defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature. Deserts and xeric shrublands form the largest terrestrial biome, covering 19% of Earth's land surface area. Ecoregions in this habitat type vary greatly in the amount of annual rainfall they receive, usually less than 250 millimetres (10 in) annually except in the margins. Generally evaporation exceeds rainfall in these ecoregions. Temperature variability is also diverse in these lands. Many deserts, such as the Sahara, are hot year-round, but others, such as East Asia's Gobi, become quite cold in winter.

Meadow Open habitat vegetated primarily by non-woody plants

A meadow is an open habitat, or field, vegetated by grasses, herbs, and other non-woody plants. Trees or shrubs may sparsely populate meadows, as long as these areas maintain an open character. Meadows may be naturally occurring or artificially created from cleared shrub or woodland. They can occur naturally under favourable conditions, but they are often maintained by humans for the production of hay, fodder, or livestock. Meadow habitats, as a group, are characterized as "semi-natural grasslands", meaning that they are largely composed of species native to the region, with only limited human intervention.

Rangeland Biomes which can be grazed by animals or livestock (grasslands, woodlands, prairies, etc)

Rangelands are grasslands, shrublands, woodlands, wetlands, and deserts that are grazed by domestic livestock or wild animals. Types of rangelands include tallgrass and shortgrass prairies, desert grasslands and shrublands, woodlands, savannas, chaparrals, steppes, and tundras. Rangelands do not include forests lacking grazable understory vegetation, barren desert, farmland, or land covered by solid rock, concrete and/or glaciers.

Fire ecology Study of fire in ecosystems

Fire ecology is a scientific discipline concerned with natural processes involving fire in an ecosystem and the ecological effects, the interactions between fire and the abiotic and biotic components of an ecosystem, and the role as an ecosystem process. Many ecosystems, particularly prairie, savanna, chaparral and coniferous forests, have evolved with fire as an essential contributor to habitat vitality and renewal. Many plant species in fire-affected environments require fire to germinate, establish, or to reproduce. Wildfire suppression not only eliminates these species, but also the animals that depend upon them.

California coastal prairie Grassland Plant Community in California

California coastal prairie, also known as northern coastal grassland, is a grassland plant community of California and Oregon in the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome. It is found along the Pacific Coast, from as far south as Los Angeles in Southern California to southern Oregon.

Puna grassland

The puna grassland ecoregion, of the montane grasslands and shrublands biome, is found in the central Andes Mountains of South America. It is considered one of the eight Natural Regions in Peru, but extends south, across Chile, Bolivia, and western northwest Argentina. The term puna encompasses diverse ecosystems of the high Central Andes above 3200–3400 m.

Shortgrass prairie

The shortgrass prairie is an ecosystem located in the Great Plains of North America. The two most dominant grasses in the shortgrass prairie are blue grama and buffalograss, the two less dominant grasses in the prairie are greasegrass and sideoats grama. The prairie was formerly maintained by grazing pressure of American bison, which is the keystone species. Due to its semiarid climate, the shortgrass prairie receives on average less precipitation than that of the tall and mixed grass prairies to the east.

Alpine steppe

The Alpine-steppe is a high altitude natural alpine grassland, which is a part of the Montane grasslands and shrublands biome.

Montane ecosystems Ecosystems found in mountains

Montane ecosystems are found on the slopes of mountains. The alpine climate in these regions strongly affects the ecosystem because temperatures fall as elevation increases, causing the ecosystem to stratify. This stratification is a crucial factor in shaping plant community, biodiversity, metabolic processes and ecosystem dynamics for montane ecosystems. Dense montane forests are common at moderate elevations, due to moderate temperatures and high rainfall. At higher elevations, the climate is harsher, with lower temperatures and higher winds, preventing the growth of trees and causing the plant community to transition to montane grasslands, shrublands or alpine tundra. Due to the unique climate conditions of montane ecosystems, they contain increased numbers of endemic species. Montane ecosystems also exhibit variation in ecosystem services, which include carbon storage and water supply.

The ecology of the Great Plains is diverse, largely owing to their great size. Differences in rainfall, elevation, and latitude create a variety of habitats including short grass, mixed grass, and tall-grass prairies, and riparian ecosystems.

Dry grassland

The key characteristic of dry grasslands is that they have low-growing plants, causing the area to be quite open. They also have a mottled structure, which leads to a biome with sunny or semi-shaded areas. On top of that, their soil is relatively dry and nutrient-poor. There are, however, types of grasslands with a higher humus and nutrient content. The soil of these areas overlie acid rocks or deposits such as sands and gravels. Dry grasslands belong to different zones such as: the natural zonal or azonal/extrazonal vegetation and the semi-natural vegetation. Overall, there are 13 classes that fall under dry grasslands.

Woody plant encroachment Vegetation cover change

Woody plant encroachment is a natural phenomenon characterised by the increase in density of woody plants, bushes and shrubs, at the expense of the herbaceous layer, grasses and forbs. It predominantly occurs in grasslands, savannas and woodlands and can cause biome shifts from open grasslands and savannas to closed woodlands. The term bush encroachment refers to the expansion of native plants and not the spread of alien invasive species. It is thus defined by plant density, not species. Bush encroachment is often considered an ecological regime shift and can be a symptom of land degradation. The phenomenon is observed across different ecosystems and with different characteristics and intensities globally.

Wood-pasture hypothesis Ecological theory

The wood-pasture hypothesis, also known as the Vera hypothesis and the megaherbivore theory is a scientific hypothesis that posits that open and semi-open pastures and wood-pastures formed and maintained by large wild herbivores, rather than primeval forests, would have formed the predominant type of landscape in post-glacial Europe, thus opposing the common belief. As the name Vera hypothesis implies, it was first proposed by Dutch researcher Frans Vera in his book Grazing Ecology and Forest History in 2000 and translated into English in 2002. Vera's ideas were not completely novel at the time. Already two years earlier, Oliver Rackham had published an article in which he criticised the idea of an all-encompassing, dark primeval forest in pre-Neolithic times as envisioned by the majority of scholars, however, Vera was the first to develop a comprehensive framework for such ideas and formulate a competing theorem. Vera's proposals, although highly controversial, came at a time when the role grazers played in woodlands was increasingly being reconsidered, and are credited for ushering a period of increased reassesment and interdisciplinary research in European conservation theory and practice. Although Vera largely focused his research on the European situation, his findings could also be applied to other temperate ecological regions worldwide, especially the broadleaved ones. More so in his book Vera also discusses the decline of ancient oak-hickory-forest communities in Eastern North America, arguing against the widely accepted assumption that those are a product of frequent fires, instead suggesting that herds of American bison that roamed the East coast in the pre-settlement period kept the forests open, thus supporting light-demanding plant communities consisting of oak, hickory and hawthorn species among others.


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Further reading