What are grassland habitats?
Grassland habitats can be found in many places around the world, and in a variety of climates. They are sometimes called other names, such as prairies, savannahs, steppes or pampas, depending on where in the world they are and the sort of climate there. Animals have adapted to the fact that grasslands don’t have many places to hide from predators by making homes in the ground, or by being tall enough to see over high grasses and shrubs.
Top 10 facts
- Grassland habitats can be found on more than 40% of the land on Earth. They are wide, open areas where mostly grass and flowers grow.
- Grassland habitats are very common, and there are many different kinds depending on the sort of climate they’re found in.
- Two main kinds of grasslands are tropical and temperate. Tropical grasslands are warmer than temperate grasslands.
- Tropical grasslands are located between the near the equator, and they stay pretty hot all year long. Savannahs in Africa are tropical grasslands.
- Temperate grasslands are located further away from the equator in both the northern and southern hemispheres. They can get very cold in the winter.
- Grasslands can be good for growing crops and feeding livestock, so many grasslands have been used for farming. This means that grassland animals can’t live there anymore, though.
- Grassland habitats get enough rain for grass to grow and cover the ground, but they don’t have the right rain and other conditions for trees to grow.
- The grass found in grassland habitats can be different lengths depending on exactly how much rainfall there is. For instance, tall grass will grow where there’s a lot of heat and moisture. In grasslands where it can be colder and drier, the grass will be short.
- A huge variety of animals and insects live in grassland habitats. They range from creepy crawlies deep in the soil, to reptiles, birds, and small and large mammals above ground.
- There are many different kinds of grassland habitats in the UK. Do you know where one is near where you live?
Did you know?
Grasslands take up over 40% of the land on Earth’s surface.
Grasslands really do have a lot of grass! There is enough rainfall for grass to grow, but not for lots of trees – so, grassland is a large, open space.
Some of the largest land animals in the world live in grassland habitats, like elephants, bison and ostriches – the largest bird in the world.
There are many different kinds of grassland habitats right here in the UK! These include:
- limestone grasslands (can be found in the Cotswolds, Peak District, Yorkshire, Wiltshire)
- marshy grasslands (can be found in Devon, Cornwall and Wales)
- acid grasslands (can be found in the New Forest)
- lowland meadows and pastures (can be found in Hereford, Worcestershire, Somerset, Dorset, East Anglia and the Weald)
- upland hay meadows (can be found in the North Pennines, Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria)
- calaminarian grasslands (can be found in the North Pennines, Yorkshire Dales, the Mendips, Derbyshire and Cornwall)
Because there aren’t a lot of trees, there aren’t many places for animals to hide from predators. So, some have adapted to the habitat by making homes underground. Meerkats do this, but they’re a little mean about it – they take burrows that other animals have made and fix them up for themselves.
Look through the gallery below and see if you can spot the following:
- Ground squirrel
- Bee gathering pollen
- Greater rhea
Because grasslands are so wide open, they offer a good-sized area for animals to travel in large packs called herds. Zebras, wildebeests, kangaroo and bison all travel in herds.
The soil in grasslands is very rich with nutrients and good for growing crops. So, grasslands are used for farming. It’s important to balance how much grassland is turned into farms, because it changes the habitat that grassland animals can live in.
Plants found in grassland habitats include:
- grasses, long and short
- cottonwood trees
- acacia trees
- baobab trees
Animals and insects that live in grassland habitats include:
- Bison (also called buffalo)
- Greater rhea
- Ground squirrels
- Maned wolves
- Prairie dogs
Words to know:
Prairie – a temperate grassland (and a kind of steppe) usually found in North America; herds of bison live on the prairie
Savannah – a type of tropical grassland that might get all its rainfall in one season (summer or winter); the grasslands of Africa are mostly savannahs, where lions, zebras, elephants and giraffes live
Steppe – a temperate or tropical grassland that only has trees near lakes and rivers; located in places including southern Russia, central Asia, southern South America, the central United States and western Canada
Veld – a term used to describe the grasslands in southern Africa; the Veld has nature reserves where cheetahs, lions, antelopes and hippopotami live
Pampas – grasslands in South America that include Uruguay and parts of Brazil and Argentina; the maned wolf and greater rhea live in the Pampas
Just for fun...
Choose colours for this picture of an African grassland, then drag and drop animals into it.
Find out how meerkats make homes from burrows.