A temperate grassland is a biome where grass is the dominant plant. Because of the lack of moisture in this environment, trees and shrubs cannot grow in temperate grasslands and the main plants found are grasses and flowers.
This biome can be found across the globe on every continent except for Antarctica and, although there is a low diversity in plant life, animals that live in temperate grasslands are diverse and abundant.
Grassland Biome Definition
A grassland biome is defined by large and flat plains of land dominated by grasses, low-lying shrubs and sometimes very few small trees. The grassland biome can be further subdivided into two specific subtypes: savannas and temperate grasslands.
Savannas are grasslands dominated by grasses with some sparse shrubs and trees. These types of grasslands take up almost a third of Africa's land as well as appearing in Australia, India and South America. The climate in this grassland biome is hot or warm all year with average rainfall between 20 and 50 inches. "Seasons" here come in the wet season (where almost all of the rain falls over a 6-month period) and a dry season (where drought and fires are common).
Temperate grasslands are most famously found in the midwestern United States and are often called prairies. These grasslands contain no shrubs or trees. Unlike savannas, temperate grasslands have true seasons with hot summers and cold winters. On average, precipitation in temperate grasslands is 20-30 inches with summer temperatures peaking at 100 degrees F and winter temperatures dropping to -40 degrees F.
African Grassland Organisms
In southern Africa, the temperate grassland region is called the veld. Due to mass slaughter, trophy hunting and encroachment of farmers, most animals that live in temperate grasslands in this region have been thinned out.
Fortunately, the South African and Zimbabwean governments have taken action to protect what animals are left, and now the lion, leopard, cheetah, giraffe, hippopotamus, elephant, oryx, kedu, eland and antelope survive in or near protected wildlife reserves. Rhinoceroses and zebras can be found wandering all over the veld as well.
Australian Grassland Organisms
The Australian temperate grassland region is known as the southern tablelands. A famous temperate grassland organism Australia is home to is the kangaroo.
Other animals that live in this biome include:
Australia doesn't have any large mammals like the ones that can be found in most other temperate grassland regions but has plenty of small rodents.
North American Grassland Organisms
The prairies of North America were once much larger than they are today. The bison, also known as buffalo, used to roam these prairies by the millions before European settlers arrived, but are now scarce in the wild.
The prairies are also home to the jackrabbit, prairie dog, California condor, coyote, gray wolf, ground squirrel, meadow vole, rattlesnake, skink, pronghorn antelope, red fox, tiger beetle and western meadowlark.
South American Grassland Organisms
The pampas of South America spread from the Atlantic Ocean to the Andes Mountains and are located primarily in Argentina and Uruguay.
Some of the common animals that live here are the pampas deer, puma, Geoffroy’s cat, pampa fox, nutria, opossum and several waterfowl such as the gallareta chica, the cuervillo de cañada and the cigüeña Americana.
Eurasian Grassland Organisms
The temperate grasslands of Eurasia, known as the steppes, range from the Ukraine eastward through Russia and Mongolia. This temperate grassland is home to many organisms, including the hedgehog, pika, squirrel, mole rat, birch mouse, hamster, vole, Siberian ferret, saiga antelope, Mongolian gazelle and wild boar.
Most of the animals that live in the steppes are small mammals in the rodent family. The only predators in this biome are of the canine family, such as the gray wolf and fox.
- Radford University: Temperate Grasslands
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Veld Animal Life
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Australian Grasslands
- Enchanted Learning: Prairie Animal Printout
- World Wildlife Fund: Terrestrial Ecoregions: Semi-arid Pampas
- Suburban Emergency Management Project: Eurasian Steppes: Origin and Evolution
- UC Berkeley: The Grassland Biome
About the Author
Nikole Yearout started writing in 2003. She writes for various websites, covering everything from marine biology to online programming and book publishing. Yearout is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from Washington State University.