The Temperate Grassland Biome


Geographical Background

Temperate grasslands are located in two typical locations –

  • interior of the continent in the northern hemisphere and
  • margin of the continents in the southern hemisphere.

Therefore, the temperate grasslands of the southern hemisphere have moderate climate than their counterparts of the northern hemisphere because of more marine influences as they are closer to the coast.

The temperate grasslands of the northern hemisphere are characterized by continental climate wherein extremes of summer and winter temperatures are well marked.

Though grasslands in the southern hemisphere are located along the coast, these are located in the rain shadow areas of the high coastal mountains. These locations account for scanty rainfall in all these regions.

These grasslands are found in all the continents under different names.

  • In the northern hemisphere, the grasslands are far more extensive.
    • In Eurasia, they are called the steppes and stretch east wards from the shores of the Black sea to the plains of Manchuria in china.
    • In North America, the grasslands are quite extensive and they are called prairies. They lie between the foot hills of the Rockies and the Great Lakes.
  • In the southern hemisphere, these grasslands are less extensive.
    • These are known as Pampas in Argentina and Uruguay.
    • In South Africa, these grasslands are sandwitched between Darkensberg mountains and the Kalahari desert and are called veldt.
    • In Australia, these grasslands are known as Downs and are found in the Murrary–Darling basins of South Australia.

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Since all these grassland are located in the temperate zones, they are also known as temperate grasslands.

Natural Vegetation and Animal Life

As the precipitation is too low for the growth of trees but is sufficient for the growth of grass. The natural vegetation of these regions comprises treeless grasslands. Trees appear only on slopes of mountains where precipitation is more. The height of grass varies from place to place according to the amount of precipitation and fertility of the soil.

Steppes in particular are known for short and nutritious grass. The appearance of these grasses on these lands varies with the seasons.

  • In springs, the grass beings to appear green, fresh and blooming with small and colourful flowers.
  • In summers, due to the scorching heat and evaporation, the green grass turns yellow and then brown.
  • Towards autumn, the grass withers and dies, but, the roots remain alive and lie dormant throughout the cold winter season.
  • When spring comes, the whole cycle is repeated.

These grasslands are natural habitat of a variety of animals. Note worthy among them are antelopes, wild asses, horses, wolves, kangaroo, emu, and dingo or wild dog.

Human Response

No other biomes has ever undergone so many changes as the temperate grassland biomes. This has happened due to the human activities –

  • (i) Majority of the grasslands have been converted into agricultural lands which have now become famous ‘granaries of the world’.
  • (ii) The second crucial factor responsible for alteration of this virgin grasslands is pastoralism or domesticated of animals. Today virgin grass lands are very rare sight.
  • (iii) Large scale hunting of animals has resulted into phenomenal decrease of the population of some animals and disappearance and extinction of some animals.
    • For example many species of animals such as antelope, Zebra, lions, leopards, hyaenas have disappeared from the African Veldt’s by the mass hunting of animals by the European immigrants.
  • (iv) The introduction of new animal and plant species has altogether changed the composition of native vegetation.
    • For example introduction of sheep by the European settlers in Australia have changed the composition of vegetation community which was originally suited to the native marsupial animals.
    • Like this introduction of few leguminous plants in Australian temperate grasslands suppressed several species of native perennial grasses.

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Bibliography : NIOS Geography Book

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