Land Biomes: Temperate Grasslands

Grasslands
Black-tailed prairie dog, Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada. John E Marriott/All Canada Photos/Getty Images

Biomes are the world's major habitats. These habitats are identified by the vegetation and animals that populate them. The location of each biome is determined by the regional climate. Grassland biomes consist of temperate grasslands and tropical grasslands, or savannas

Key Takeaways: Temperate Grasslands

  • Temperate grasslands are areas of open grassy plains that are sparsely populated with trees.
  • Various names of temperate grasslands include pampas, downs, and veldts.
  • Temperate grasslands can be found in various regions north and south of the equator including Argentina, Australia, and central North America.
  • Temperatures vary with seasons with tornadoes, blizzards, and fires occurring in many temperate grassland regions.
  • Temperate grasslands are home to many large and small herbivores.

Temperate Grasslands

Like savannas, temperate grasslands are areas of open grassland with very few trees. Temperate grasslands, however, are located in colder climate regions and receive less precipitation on average than savannas.

Climate

Temperatures in temperate grasslands vary according to the season. In winter, temperatures can plummet to well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas. In summer, temperatures can reach above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperate grasslands receive low to moderate precipitation on average per year (20-35 inches). Most of this precipitation is in the form of snow in temperate grasslands of the northern hemisphere.

Tornadoes, Blizzards, and Fires

Tornado
 nickalbi/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Three natural factors that impact temperate grassland biomes are tornadoes, blizzards, and fires. A stretch of the plains region in the United States is termed Tornado Alley due to tornado hyperactivity. This region extends from northern Texas through North Dakota and extends east into Ohio. Tornadoes are spawned as warm air from the Gulf meets cold air from Canada generating around 700 tornadoes per year. Temperate grasslands located in colder regions also experience icy winters and blizzards. High winds generate sudden snowstorms that spread across the plains. Due to the hot, dry summer climate, wildfires are common in temperate grasslands. These fires are usually sparked by lightning but are also the result of human activity. The thick dry grass fuels fires that can spread for hundreds of miles. While fires are destructive in nature, they also ensure that prairies remain grasslands and are not overtaken by scrub vegetation.

Location

Temperate Grassland Map
Temperate Grassland Locations. Terpsichores/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0 

Grasslands are located on every continent with the exception of Antarctica. Some locations of temperate grasslands include:

  • Argentina - pampas
  • Australia - downs
  • Central North America - plains and prairies
  • Hungary - puszta
  • New Zealand - downs
  • Russia - steppes
  • South Africa - veldts

Vegetation

Low to moderate precipitation makes temperate grasslands a difficult place for tall plants such as woody shrubs and trees to grow. Grasses of this area have adapted to cold temperatures, drought, and occasional fires. These grasses have deep, massive root systems that take hold in the soil. This allows the grasses to remain firmly rooted in the ground to reduce erosion and to conserve water.

Temperate grassland vegetation can either be short or tall. In areas that receive little precipitation, grasses remain low to the ground. Taller grasses can be found in warmer areas that receive more rainfall. Some examples of vegetation in temperate grasslands include: buffalo grass, cacti, sagebrush, perennial grasses, sunflowers, clovers, and wild indigos.

Wildlife

American Bison
American Bison.  Juan Carlos Munoz/The Image Bank/Getty Images Plus

Temperate grasslands are home to many large herbivores. Some of these include bison, gazelles, zebras, rhinoceroses, and wild horses. Carnivores, like lions and wolves, are also found in temperate grasslands. Other animals of this region include: deer, prairie dogs, mice, jack rabbits, skunks, coyotes, snakes, foxes, owls, badgers, blackbirds, grasshoppers, meadowlarks, sparrows, quails, and hawks.

More Land Biomes

Temperate grasslands are one of many biomes. Other land biomes of the world include:

  • Chaparrals: Characterized by dense shrubs and grasses, this biome experiences dry summers and damp winters.
  • Deserts: Many people assume falsely that all deserts are hot. Deserts are classified according to location, temperature, and amount of precipitation.
  • Savannas: This large grassland biome is home to some of the fastest animals on the planet.
  • Taigas: Also called coniferous forests, this biome is populated by dense evergreen trees.
  • Temperate Forests: These forests experience distinctive seasons and are populated by deciduous trees (lose leaves in winter).
  • Tropical Rain Forests: This biome receives abundant rainfall and is characterized by tall, dense vegetation. Located near the equator, this biome experiences hot temperatures year round.
  • Tundra: As the coldest biome in the world, tundras are characterized by extremely cold temperatures, permafrost, tree-less landscapes, and slight precipitation.

Sources

  • Hoare, Ben. Temperate Grasslands. Raintree, 2011.
  • Nunez, Christina. "Grasslands Information and Facts." National Geographic, 15 Mar. 2019, www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/grasslands/.