Grasslands are generally dominated by plants in the family Poaceae. While generally quite biologically diverse they can also contain members of the rush family as well as a large variety of wildflowers. Perennial grass root systems often have remarkable soil conservation properties, forming subsurface mats or sometimes having roots that extend downward by tens of metres. Typical average rainfall for grassland biomes is 500 to 1000 millimetres per annum. Grasslands are often some of the most important habitats for conservation, since they are inherently vulnerable to agricultural conversion and urbanisation. The image at the right illustrates a healthy grassland on the island of Mull, Scotland, displaying rush and sedge components as well as a gamut of forbs.
GrassesLast Updated on 2013-10-29 21:13:22
The grass family Poaceae (also known as Gramineae) contains approximately 10,000 distinct species and 650 to 900 genera. Only the sunflower (Asteraceae, or Compositae), legume (Fabaceae, or Leguminosae), and orchid (Orchidaceae) families are larger in terms of number of taxa. The grass family has more individual plants and a wider environmental range than does any other family, occupying the geographic limits of vegetation in polar regions and on mountaintops, enduring extremes of cold, sunlight, heat, and drought, while dominating various landscapes worldwide. Grasses are the most successful monocots (seed-bearing plants with single seed leaves), and the most beneficial plants for humankind, providing highly nutritional grains and livestock forage, and preventing soil erosion. Of the five crops that provide almost two-thirds of the food caloric intake that mankind consumes,... More »
Western Zambezian grasslandsLast Updated on 2013-10-28 23:56:29The Western Zambezian grasslands ecoregion consists of two principal disjunctive elements situated in western Zambia, to the north and south of the Barotse floodplains. The ecoregion exhibits moderate vertebrate species diversity, with 572 vertebrate taxa having been recorded here. Many ungulates occur in the Western Zambezian grasslands, including Zambia's largest herd of Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), which undertake a spectacular annual migration into Angola. These grasslands have been inhabited by man for centuries, but are adapted to some anthropogenic disturbances such as fires, and have a long history of traditional slash-and-burn agricultural practises.
This ecoregion is located in southwestern Zambia, in two main portions within White’s Zambesian Center of Endemism. It extends marginally into Angola, where the grasslands are soon replaced by the Angolan... More »
Terai-Duar savanna and grasslandsLast Updated on 2013-10-24 16:27:14TheTerai-Duar savanna and grasslands ecoregion contains the highest densities of tigers, rhinos, and ungulates in Asia. One of the features that elevates it to the Global 200 is the diversity of ungulate species and extremely high levels of ungulate biomass recorded in riverine grasslands and grassland-forest mosaics.
The world's tallest grasslands, found in this ecoregion, are the analogue of the world's tallest forests and are a phenomenon unto themselves. Very tall grasslands are rare worldwide in comparison with short grasslands and are some of the most threatened ecoregion units. Tall grasslands are indicators of mesichabitat characterized by moderate soil moisture or wet conditions and nutrient-rich soils; most have been converted to agricultural use.
The Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands ecoregion sits at the base of the Himalaya Mountains, the world's youngest... More »
Saharan flooded grasslandsLast Updated on 2013-10-18 23:58:42
During the rainy season, the White Nile River overflows into the vast floodplain surrounding the permanent Sudd swamps, bringing nutrients and new life to the dry, cracked ground. The Sudd is one of the largest floodplains in Africa, providing watering and feeding grounds for populations of migratory mammals and birds. This floodplain borders the arid Sahelian region and is thus an important watering hole for many species as they move across the landscape. Civil war, which resumed in 1983, poses the greatest threat to conservation here. As is common in the case in wartime, environmental conservation has ceased to be a priority, and most reserve areas in Sudan likely now only exist on paper. Moreover, the increased use of automatic weapons and vehicles has led to a decline in wildlife through uncontrolled hunting and greater accessibility to game. The incomplete... More »
Central Range sub-alpine grasslandsLast Updated on 2013-10-17 15:28:37The Central Range sub-alpine grasslands are a unique example of alpine shrublands surrounding the highest peaks (up to 4884 metres) in Australasia. These fragile environments are fairly well protected by a combination of formal protection and remoteness.
This ecoregion is made up of scattered alpine meadow habitats above 3,000 meters (m) along the Central Cordillera in Irian Jaya, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea (PNG). The Central Cordillera is composed of a series of mountain ranges, which are broadly grouped into the Snow Mountains in Irian Jaya, the Star Mountains in Irian Jaya and PNG, and the Central and Eastern Highlands PNG. Although most of New Guinea has a tropical wet climate, in the case of this ecoregion it is modified by extreme altitude. Another classification system puts this ecoregion in a humid upper montane climate. The surface geology of the Central Cordillera is... More »
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