Maybe "Little House on the Grassland Biome" isn't exactly as catchy as "Little House on the Prairie," but the fictitious Ingalls family certainly called a grassland biome home.
A biome is a large geographical area containing distinctive plant and animal life, which have adapted to that region's climate and environment. Biomes include tundra, desert and grasslands. Grasslands are characterised as lands dominated by grass rather than trees or shrubs.
About one-quarter of the Earth's surface is made up of the grassland biome, and they are found in the middle latitudes of every continent but Australia. There are two main divisions: temperate and tropical grasslands.
There are two types of temperate grasslands: prairies and steppes. Prairies contain tall grass and are humid and wet. Steppes are made of short grass and are dry, with hotter summers. The Great Plains of North America is one of the best examples of a prairie, while Russia is known for steppes.
Tropical grasslands are called savannahs. Savannahs cover more than one half of Africa and large areas of Australia, South America and India.
Animals that inhabit savannah grasslands have evolved to survive in the wide open conditions. For example, cheetahs, lions and coyotes can run very fast. Other animals, like elephants and giraffes, travel in herds for protection.
Mice, prairie dogs and other small animals were meant to thrive in grasslands: they can hide in the tall grass. Other prairie dwellers include bobcats, Canadian geese, eagles, grey wolves, wild turkeys, dung beetles, crickets, bison and prairie chickens.
Common plant life in North American prairies includes buffalo grass, blazing stars, coneflowers, goldenrod, clover, crazy weed, sunflowers, asters and wild indigo.
Few natural prairie regions remain. This is because the flat, treeless, fertile land is perfect for farmland or grazing.
Rainfall in Grasslands
Precipitation in temperate grasslands mostly occurs in the late spring and early summer, with an annual average of 20 to 35 inches. Grasslands in the Southern Hemisphere tend to get more rain.
Why trees don't grow
The annual precipitation in most grasslands is great enough to support the growth of many grasses and a few trees, but the rainfall is too erratic and drought too common to encourage growth of forests.
Grasslands became widespread after the Pleistocene Ice Ages when the global climate became hotter and drier.