Also called tropical grasslands, savanna grasslands refer to a kind of grassland biome, which thrive in wet and dry climates, but not as dry as deserts. The grasslands are found close to the equator, between the Tropic of Capricorn and Tropic of Cancer. Although they are located on the edges of tropical forests, the grasslands do not usually receive enough rainfall to support the growth of many plant species. However, there are a few occasional trees and other plant species that manage to thrive in the savanna close to water points.
The savanna vegetation usually comprises of scrubs, grass and some trees like the acacia. Besides, the grasslands also support various kinds of animal species. Africa has the largest grassland, but some are also found across parts of South America, Australia and India.
Characteristics of Savanna Grasslands
The following are the main characteristics that define the savanna;
The savanna usually experience two seasons; wet and dry seasons, however, the grasslands are often dry. During the wet season, there is little rainfall that supports the growth of vegetation for a short time. The annual rainfall is often between 20 to 50 inches. In the dry season, very few vegetation is able to survive due to less rainfall of about 4 inches only. The savanna is generally hot throughout the year with temperatures not dropping below 64 Degrees Fahrenheit. During the long periods of drought, fires can occur, causing even more devastation to the grassland.
Plants and Animals
Due to the long dry seasons experienced in the savanna grasslands, plant and animals species that call it home have to adapt to the conditions. The plants found in the savanna are called xerophytes; they are able to store water over a long period of time. For instance, a plant like acacia thrives well in the grasslands because of its thick, waxy and thorny leaves, which can hold water for longer. The plants also have long tap roots to help in siphoning water from deep underground.
Animals that live in the savanna usually move for long distances in search of food and water because of the scarcity of those resources in the grasslands. The lives of the large animals that graze in the savanna like giraffes, buffaloes, zebras, elephants among others depend on the abundance of food. The grasslands are home to the largest diversity of hoofed mammals. Besides, it is also hosts birds of prey like hawks, eagles, buzzards among other species.
The tropical grasslands support both herbivores and carnivores. The expansive grass provides food for herbivorous animals like gazelles, zebras, which in turn feed flesh-eating animals like lions and cheetahs. Each of the plant and animal species in the savanna has their own preferences, although there is a high competition for food due to the unfavorable climate.
Tropical grasslands have porous soil, which experiences rapid water drainage. It only bears a thin humus layer, the organic part of the soil formed by partial decomposition of plant and animal matter. This further provides the vegetation in the grasslands with nutrients for growth.
Areas where Savanna Grasslands are found
East Africa is one of the key areas where tropical grasslands exist. With occasional acacia trees, the savannas thrive well in the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania and parts of Kenya. In South America, there are also stretches of grasslands. However, only few species of plants and animals survive in this area.
Savannas occupy an estimated 2.5 million square kilometers in Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. This is an area almost equivalent to a quarter the size of Canada. In Colombia and Venezuela, the plants have adapted to growing in water for a longer period of time.
Current State of Tropical Grasslands
Tropical savannas have mainly thrived as a habitat for various kinds of animal and plant species, which have mutually lived in the ecosystem for decades. However, these species are currently threatened, and many of them have been wiped out by various factors including, unfavorable climatic conditions, fires, human activities among others. Human activity remains the main threat to the survival of savanna grasslands due to continuous clearance of land for agriculture, road constructions, and settlement among other environmentally harmful practices.
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