Temperate grasslands are wide areas dominated by grass and are naturally treeless. Most also lack any other sort of large vegetation. They have cold winters and hot summers. The amount of rainfall determines whether the grass is tall and waving or much shorter. Temperate grasslands are self-sustaining, their rotted roots feeding the soil and creating nutrients that feed the new growth; however, their continued existence is sometimes threatened.
The grasslands are located in many areas of the world, but the major temperate grassland areas are in South Africa (velds), the prairies and plains of North America, the pampas of South America and the Eurasian steppes. Temperatures in the temperate grasslands can rise to above 37.8 degrees C in the summer, while winter temperatures can fall below minus 4.44 degrees C.
Some of the most fertile soil in the world rests under the temperate grasslands. This, along with the fact that many grasslands are flat, treeless and wide, makes them attractive for agriculture. Ploughing of the land and livestock overgrazing are major threats to the temperate grasslands. A common agricultural practice is to plant one type of plant in each field; these plants draw the same nutrients from the soil time after time, depleting the soil of specific nutrients. Fertilisers are then used to replace these nutrients, further damaging the soil. Single-crop agriculture also draws invasive species and pests which feed on that crop, thus necessitating the use of pesticides to control the pests. The practice of crop rotation helps to mitigate some of these damaging factors.
As communities grow, they branch out into undeveloped areas. About 47 per cent of the temperate grasslands have been ploughed under, either for agricultural uses or urban development. Unlike with agriculture where, with care and awareness, the damage to the soil can be minimised, urban development usually permanently removes the grasslands.
A rise in global temperatures will have an adverse affect on temperate grasslands. According to Marietta University, some grasslands are already in marginal areas, and as the pattern of rainfall changes, these marginal grasslands will become deserts. Much of this change is expected to occur in the nutrient-rich soil grassland areas of the United States, many of which are now being used for agricultural purposes.
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