Grassland biomes are exactly as the name states – large areas of grass. However, the type of grass and the animals and insects that inhabit this type of biome depends on the location and the climate, which means that there are several types of grassland biomes in the world. In North America, the settlers traveling west who encountered the large stretches of grassy plains named them prairies because they were so much more than large flat areas covered with grass. The ecosystems of these prairies included more than 80 different animal species and hundreds of different species of plants and birds.
The annual amount of precipitation an area receives is an essential component in determining the type of grassland biome found in that region. In some regions, the annual precipitation is sufficient to maintain large stands of grass and trees, whereas in others, only a few trees are able to grow. Areas that are prone to drought experience years of very little growth in which the grass withers and dies, leaving the land barren and open to erosion from the wind.
There are basically two main types of grassland biomes. Areas that are mainly wet and humid feature tall grasses, whereas areas that have hot summers and cold winters are generally characterized by short grasses. Within the United States and Canada, you will find both types of biomes with the tall grass biomes occurring in the east and central parts of the continent and further westward where the winters are colder, you will find short grass biomes.
The interior of the continents is the most common location of grasslands. This is because of the climate of the region and the location being farther away from the ocean. In Argentina, the grasslands are known as pampas with tall grasses that benefit from the hot and humid climate. The grasslands in South America tend to be of the tall grass type because they receive so much more rain than the grasslands of North America.
The area that stretches from Russia to the Ukraine in Western Europe is also a grassland biome. These are known as the steppes and are mainly short grasses. This is due to the extremely cold and dry climate of the region with the winds from the Arctic being able to bring the cold air into the region because of the lack of mountains to block or temper their path.
There are two main growing seasons in a grassland biome – the dormant season and the growing season. In areas that receive long and cold winters, the dormant season is quite long. The grasses therefore do not have a long growing season and are not able to reach any great height. The rainy season of the southern climates also determines the length of the growing season. The temperature generally needs to be about 50F for grass to start growing.
Plant life varies in the grassland biomes of the world. In the North American grasslands you will find a wide range of animals, such as coyotes, eagles, bobcats, prairie chicken and wild turkeys. The plant life of such a biome includes buffalo grass, sunflowers, clover, goldenrod and asters.