The grassland biome is mainly dominated by short and tall grass species. In addition, climate conditions are characterized by cold temperatures in the winter, moderate to hot temperatures in the summer, and generally dry conditions. In order to survive in this biome, animal and plant species require a number of different adaptations.
The grassland biome is characterized by dry and warm temperatures during the summertime and cold winters that receive plenty of snow. Precipitation amounts range between 50 and 90 centimeters per year; most precipitation falls during the late autumn and winter seasons.
Growing Season Adaptations
Given the lack of precipitation during the summer season, some plants that grow in grassland biomes germinate in the fall instead of the spring. This adaptation gives plants such as cheatgrass a jump-start on the growing season, meaning the plants can complete their life cycle before the onset of the dry season.
Adaptations to Fire
Fire is a common occurrence in grassland ecosystems. Because of this, the grassland biome is characterized by short or tall grasses and some small shrubs, but no trees. Plants in the grassland biome have adapted to annual fire events. For example, though the parts of plants that are aboveground, such as stems and leaves, are destroyed by fire, their root systems are able to resprout following the fire event. In addition, some plants produce seeds that require a fire event to begin the germination process.
Root System Adaptations
Given the lack of precipitation, many plants in the grassland biome have extensive root systems that absorb water at and below the ground surface. Other plants have long tap roots that reach into the soil to find water sources deep below the surface. These extensive root systems also ensure that grazing animals are unable to pull the plants out from their roots, meaning the plants can resprout after the animal feeds on the aboveground portions (stems, seeds, leaves) of the plant.
Animals that live in grassland ecosystems exhibit a number of different adaptations. For example, many animals that are found in grassland biomes are grazers such as pronghorn antelope. Other animals, such as prairie dogs, live in underground burrows that allow them to spend time in a cool environment rather than in the hot and windy conditions aboveground.