“Grasslands are globally important because they are a natural Carbon Sink and natural carbon sinks are an important part of a natural process called Carbon Cycle.
In the carbon cycle, earth both emits and re-captures and stores large quantities of Carbon Dioxide, also known as CO2, from the earth’s atmosphere thereby keeping the global temperature more or less in balance.”
Grasslands have many names;
- U.S. Midwest, they’re known as prairies
- South America, they’re called pampas
- Central Eurasian grasslands are referred to as steppes
- Africa they’re named savannas.
What they all have in common is grass as their naturally dominant vegetation. Grasslands are found where there is not enough regular rainfall to support the growth of a forest, but not so little as to form a desert.
In fact, most grasslands are located between forests and deserts. About one quarter of the Earth’s land is covered with grasslands, but many of these lands have been turned into farms.
There are two different kinds of grasslands:
- Tropical grasslands are warm year round, but usually have a dry and a rainy season. One such tropical grassland, the African savanna, is home to some of the world’s most recognizable species, including elephants, giraffes, rhinos, zebras, lions, hyenas, and warthogs.
- Temperate grasslands, which average between 10 and 30 inches (25 and 75 centimeters) of rain per year, have shorter grasses, sometimes just a few millimeters. These areas have two seasons: a growing season and a dormant season. During the dormant season, no grass can grow because it is too cold.
The animals that live in temperate grasslands have adapted to the dry, windy conditions. There are grazing animals like gazelle and deer; burrowing animals such as mice and jack rabbits; and predators such as snakes and coyotes. The North American grasslands were once home to millions of bison.
No other habitat is as agriculturally useful to humans as grasslands. Soils tend to be deep and fertile, perfect for cropland or pastures. Much of the North American prairielands have been converted into one of the richest agricultural regions on Earth.
For the general public, grasslands do not exhibit the same need for protection as a rainforest or an old growth redwood stand BUT in truth grasslands are far more threatened.
The importance of protecting/conserving grasslands is matched only by our need to have open spaces and breathe clean air. These ecosystems are critical for the health of our natural world. The grasslands provide feeding grounds for all manner of prey and predators and give balance to the world.
The next time you drive by an open field, give it a second look and be happy to see the grass blowing in the breeze. Whether it is being used for grazing or simply sitting as it is, the fact the land remains as a grassland is a good sign.