What is a grassland ecosystem?
The word grassland is somewhat self explanatory. A grassland is a wide open grassy space. A grassland may also contain low shrubs and other plants, but its predominant feature is that it is a place where plenty of grass grows.
A grassland ecosystem is a community of creatures living together within a grassy space. These creatures can include various types of grasses, insects, and animals, etc.
- The presence of grass. It almost goes without saying that grassland ecosystems are composed largely of wide swathes of grass rather than trees or shrubs – or, on the other hand, rather than bare desert soil.
- Biodiversity. Grassland ecosystems are extremely bio-diverse and are home to thriving communities of plants, animals, insects and mammals.
- Ubiquity. Grassland ecosystems are present in every single continent on this planet with the sole exception of Antarctica, which is too cold to sustain a grassland ecosystem.
Grassland ecosystems can be found throughout the world, for example:
- In the tropics, near to the equator.
- In the temperate zones of the earth, between the equator and the polar regions.
The importance of grassland ecosystems.
Grassland ecosystems are very important for a wide variety of different reasons. Below, you will find some of the main ones.
1. Habitat. Grassland ecosystems are key habitats for huge numbers of different animals including zebras, bison, lions and elephants.
2. Soil quality. The delicate balance of plants and animals in grassland ecosystems maintains a high soil quality. When humans intervene in grasslands and use them for crop based agriculture they alter the mineral composition of the soil and its quality and hence fertility declines.
3. Beauty. Grassland ecosystems should be important to us, too, because they are quite simply very beautiful open spaces.
4. Large area. Around a quarter of the earth’s total landmass is taken up by grassland ecosystems. That makes the grassland ecosystem one of the largest and most important types of ecosystem in the world.
5. Useful to humans. Grassland ecosystems are very useful to humans, particularly as pasture for cattle. The prairies of North America, for example, have traditionally been used as pasture grounds for many centuries.
Grassland ecosystems come in many shapes and sizes, but together all of the world’s grasslands cover nearly a quarter of all of the continents on the globe. The ubiquity and sheer area of these ecosystems makes them very important to the planet.
However, climate change, intensive farming and urban sprawl are all threatening our beautiful grassland ecosystems. All of these threats derive from humans and so it is certainly in our power to stop them. Now is the time for us to act and to preserve our grassland ecosystems for the generations to come.
Do you live close to a grassland ecosystem? Or, what grassland ecosystems in the world can you think of? Can you think of any actions that you can take to keep these precious habitats safe? Your actions might range from using less fossil fuels to becoming part of a collective environmental campaign to protect the world’s grasslands. Either way, the animals that live in grasslands, as well as future generations of humans, will be very grateful to you for your work.