Grassland ecosystem examples

Grassland ecosystem examples

Introduction

An ecosystem is a functional unit of the environment. Here living organisms interact among themselves and also with their surrounding physical environment. Grassland is an ecosystem where various types of organisms, plant species, and many microorganisms live. These ecosystems can be observed somewhere in every corner of the globe.  All of these grasslands are known by different names. Here we will discuss grassland ecosystem examples.

In each ecosystem, there is a great variation between the climate, the weather, and other biotic and abiotic elements. Grassland ecosystems are formed based on biotic and abiotic components of this region (1).

What is the grassland ecosystem?

The grassland ecosystem is one of the largest terrestrial ecosystems after the forest. Here various types of organisms interact with the climate, soil to form the grassland ecosystem.

Grasslands cover 25% of the earth’s surface. These ecosystems are developed mainly in temperate regions. They are located in the central part of the continent where the average annual rainfall is 70 to 100 cm. It is an ecosystem where very large tree species are not found. Grassland ecosystems receive irregular rainfall. So here grass is predominant.

These types of ecosystems are some of the most productive landscapes on the planet earth. It is an ecological system with scattered shrubs and isolated trees. The grassland ecosystems that are found in every country of the world are known by different names.

  • North America- Prairies
  • South America- Selves
  • Australia- Downs
  • Europe- Taiga
  • South Africa- Veld

Based on these names, the following are some examples of grassland ecosystems (3).

Some interesting facts about the grassland ecosystem

1. All large regions of the natural grassland ecosystem are warm.

2. In this ecosystem, Grass is looked rough and lifeless in the winter season and during the rainy season, the grasses look bright green.

3. Here, temperatures can drop -40°F during the winter season.

4. Large species are found in this ecosystem.

5. This ecosystem is called the transitional zone because the grass is predominant here and no big trees can be seen.

6. Two seasons can be seen in this ecosystem.

7. The annual rainfall of this ecosystem is 70 to 100 cm.

8. Here the climate is very dry and the soil is very weak.

9. A grassland in an ecosystem in which there is too much water to form a desert, but not enough water to form a forest (2) & (3).

Grassland ecosystem examples

Some of the grassland ecosystem examples are as follows

Prairies in North America

Features

1. It is the largest grassland in North America.

2. This grassland ecosystem once covered an area of about 142 million acres.

3. About 40 % of the land in the whole of America was under these prairies.

4. This type of ecosystem causes a lot of fires.

5. The climatic factors of the prairies region are ideal for grain production here.

6. This type of ecosystem produces a lot of wheat. That is why the prairies region is known as the world’s breadbasket.

7. The summers in this ecosystem are warm. Here the temperature is about 20°C and the winter temperature is -15°C.

8. Here the amount of rainfall is 200 to 700 mm per year.

Plant community

The prairies grassland of North America extends from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the west to the forests of temperate deciduous trees in the east. Here the amount of rainfall is about 450 to 100 mm. The Prairies region of North America can be divided into three parts based on the height of the grass.

1. Long grassy prairies

This grassland is found in the eastern part of North America. The main grass species in this part are bluestem and switchgrass. Their length is about 1.2 to 2.5 meters. Occasionally scattered oak and hickory trees are observed here.

2. Mix grassy prairies

This region extends from the border between the United States and Canada in North America to the southern part of Texas. A combination of medium-sized and short-sized grasses can be observed in this region. The plants that can be seen here are the bluestem, needle-grass, June grass etc. their height is 1 m to 1.5 m.

3. Short grass prairies

The short grass prairies region is located in the western part of the great plains of America. In this region, short grasses with a height of 60 cm are mainly seen.

Animal community

Bison, deer with thorny horns are the main animals in this region. Sometimes rattlesnakes, eagles, hawks, and foxes are seen here. Currently, the number of animals is decreasing rapidly due to the conversion of large parts of the prairies region to agriculture.

Pampas in Argentina

Features

1. It is the fertile lowlands of South America.

2. The climate in this region is temperate.

3. Here the rainfall is more or less equal to 600 to 1200 mm throughout the year.

4. Due to the fertile soil of this region, the land is always suitable for agriculture.

5. During the day in summer, the temperature here usually ranges from 28 to 30°C.

6. Snowfall first occurs in the south in mid-April and in the north, from late May to early June.

7. This is the most active tornado region.

8. Sometimes, snowfall also occurs during the daytime.

9. In winter, daytime temperatures are usually 12 to 19°C and nights are 1 to 6°C

Plant community

These grasslands can be divided into two parts on the basis of moisture.

1. Wet pampas

This type of pampas is formed in the rainy part of eastern Argentina. Bluestem is the main grass in this region. Most of the elongated grasses are seen here.

2. Medium-moist pampas

This region is formed in the desert climate of the west. The main grass species seen here are- Briza, Bromus, panicum, paspalum, Lolium, etc.

Animal community

Pampas’ deer, Patagonian mara, viscacha, rhea birds, etc. are the main animal groups. However, in some places swans, ducks, etc. can be seen in pampas. Although large in size, their skin color is similar to that of local plants. That is why they can easily hide.

Moreover, their height is high enough to see the predators. The main predator here is the wolf. Some seasonal migratory birds are also seen here.

Veld in South Africa

Interesting facts

1. Black soil can be seen in this part.

2. This region is sometimes partly desert, sometimes covered with shrubs and grasses.

3. The amount of annual rainfall here is 500 to 900 mm in a year.

4. July is the coldest month in this region and temperatures vary between 5 to 10°C in July.

5. In this region, rainfall occurs between November and February.

6. Sometimes snowfall occurs during winter.

7. Summer is very warm and short. The temperature in summer is 18°C to 27°.

Plant community

Veld grassland is found in the southeastern plateau region of Africa. Veld grassland can be divided into three parts.

1. Themeda veld

At an altitude of 1500-1600 meters where the annual rainfall is 750 to 850 mm, the themeda veld region is formed. Black soil has been created here. The main grass species here is red grass. Excessive grazing has turned the red grass into desert grass.

2. Sour veld

This veld region is formed with the themeda veld. The main grasses are Aristida, Eragrostis and Hyparrhenia, Bromus, Fescues grass.

3. Alpine veld

The region is found at an altitude of 2000 to 2500 m in the Drakensberg highlands. Themeda grass, Bromus grass, Fescues grass species are grown here.

Animal community

Deer, coyotes, lions, leopards, zebras, etc. are observed in this veld area. But now that most of the veld region has been converted to agriculture, the natural habitat has changed. There are also some animals seen in this region. These are sheep, goats, cattle, rabbits, gerbils, etc.

Downs in Australia

Features

1. This region is formed in southeastern Australia and northern Tasmania.

2. The main feature of this region is that the northern hemisphere has warmer winters than temperate grasslands and eucalyptus trees and grasses.

3. They are hot in summers and cold in winters.

4. Here summer temperature is about 20° C and winter temperature is -18°C.

5. The annual average rainfall in the south is about 1524 mm and the north is 735 mm.

Plant community

Eucalyptus is the main tree in this region. The downs of Australia can be divided into three parts-

Temperate long grassy downs

The main grass species here are payya, tusak, Australian themeda, or kangaroo grass. Danthonia pallida is a notable grass species in arid regions. This region extends from New South Wales in the east to Victoria in the west and in the eastern part of Tasmania.

1. Temperate short grassy downs

Here the notable herbaceous species are Danhania and Stipa.

2. Desert grassy downs

This desert grassland has developed in the semi-arid climates of New South Wales and Queensland. The grass here has survived by adapting to the desert climate. Aristida, Mulga, etc. are the primary plants in this region.

Animal community

Kangaroos are the main animals of the Downs region in Australia. Three types of kangaroos can be seen here such as, red kangaroos, gray kangaroos, and wallaroos. European rabbits are also seen here. Emu is a notable bird of the region. They can’t fly.

Steppes in Eurasia

Features

1. Steppe grassland is basically found near a river or any reservoir.

2. The characteristics of the steppe region change with the seasons and latitudes.

3. It is also known as the semi-desert.

4. The average summer temperature in this region is about 45°C and the winter temperature is -20°C.

5. Humus-rich black soil is found here which is very fertile.

6. The average annual precipitation in this region is 250 to 510 mm.

Plant community

The region extends from Eastern Europe to western Siberia. These areas are divided into four types.

1. Steppes forest

Oaks, maple, aspen, willow, etc. trees have developed in this part of the steppes region. The average annual rainfall is 500 to 600 mm. Chernozem soils form this part.

2. Middo forest

Here the amount of rainfall is 400 to 600 mm. Fescues grass, feather grass, etc. are seen in this region.

3. Grass steppes

Tussock grass is the main plant in this region. In the southern part of this region some herbaceous flowering desert plants can be observed. Chernozem soil is the primary soil in this region.

4. Semi-desert steppes

Fescue grass, feather grass are also seen here. Desert type and short-lived shrubs also grow in this region. Here chestnut soil is the main soil.

Animal community

Mongolian gazelle, wild horse, rats with sharp teeth, wolves, eagles, hawks, polar cats, deer, etc. are the animal group present in the steppe region in Eurasia (3) & (4).

Written By: Manisha Bharati

References

1. B Agarwal and V. K. Agarwal. Unified Botany, B.Sc. second Year. Shiva Lal Agarwal & Company Publications, Indore. Chapter: Ecosystem. Page no- 253 to 279.

2. Chandrasekhar Chakrabarti. Modern approach to a textbook of core Zoology, General & Honours. Nirmala library, A Publishing House under the Prestigious International Standard Book Number (ISBN) System. Kolkata, (India). Part – I, chapter- Ecology. Page: 1st. 25.1 to 1st. 25.18.

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