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Grassland

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.

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Saharan flooded grasslands Last Updated on 2014-04-14 17:53:44 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 Jonglei canal, at a width... More »
Highveld grasslands Last Updated on 2014-04-14 15:46:11 Highveld grasslands cover a large portion of west-central South Africa. Grasslands all over the world have experienced dramatic habitat destruction as a result of anthropogenic changes. The Highveld Grassland is no exception, with agriculture severely fragmenting this once-expansive region. This ecoregion now provides the last remaining stronghold of a number of grassland species that have suffered major reductions in abundance in the grassland biome, and which are consequently threatened with extinction (e.g. the Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradisea). There is a relatively biodiverse vertebrate fauna, with 608 taxa recorded. The ecoregion draws its name from the high interior plateau known as the Highveld, and the expansive cover of species-rich communities of grasses. The ecoregion is bordered by the Drakensberg in the east, the arid Karoo and Kalahari in the west, and the... More »
Nenjiang River grassland Last Updated on 2014-03-18 16:57:33 Nenjiang River grassland is an expansive low lying grassland drained by the Nenjiang and Songhua Rivers of China. The Nenjiang River originates among low hills that define China’s northeastern border with the Russian Far East. After winding through a series of valleys, the Nenjiang River flows down onto the Songhua-Nenjiang plain where flooded grasslands have historically provided important summer breeding habitat for a variety of migratory birds including six of the world’s fifteen crane species. The Red-crowned Crane, White-naped Crane, Siberian Crane and Demoiselle crane breed in this ecoregion, while the Common Crane and Hooded Crane stage here prior to migrating to their breeding habitat.  Overfishing and agricultural development threaten the bird populations of this species-rich ecoregion. Nenjiang River grassland is an expansive low lying grassland drained by... More »
Patagonian grasslands Last Updated on 2014-03-13 15:17:46 The Patagonian grasslands ecoregion extends from near the tip of the southern cone in Argentina, northwards across eastern Tierra del Fuego, then extends just north of the Straits of Magellan to the Rio Gallegos. The Falkland Islands are also included in this ecoregion. Habitats in this ecoregion include tundra grasslands in the northern portion, high latitude Andean meadows in the central portion, deciduous thickets along the southern extremes, and swamp forests on the Falkland Islands. Much of this region in southern Argentina and Chile has been ecologically altered due to extensive grazing of livestock introduced by Europeans in the 1800s. Certain coastal portions of this ecoregion are prolific breeding grounds for penguins such as the Magellanic Penguin. The Patagonian grasslands are located at the bottom tip of South America. The region extends from the Santa Cruz... More »
Palouse grasslands Last Updated on 2014-03-06 15:18:43 The Palouse grasslands ecoregion extends over eastern Washington, northwestern Idaho and northeastern Oregon. Grasslands and savannas once covered extensive areas of the inter-mountain west, from southwest Canada into western Montana in the USA. Today, areas like the great Palouse prairie of eastern  are virtually eliminated as natural areas due to conversion to rangeland. The Palouse, formerly a vast expanse of native wheatgrasses (Agropyron spp), Idaho Fescue (Festuca idahoensis), and other grasses, has been plowed and converted to wheat fields or is covered by Drooping Brome (Bromus tectorum) and other alien plant species. The Palouse lies in the rain shadow of the Cascades and has a generally semiarid climate. This climate is similar to that of the annual grasslands of California, yet the Palouse historically resembled the mixed-grass vegetation of the Central grasslands,... More »