Grasslands – Definition, Types, Functions, Importance
Grasslands are areas of vegetation where grasses predominate. Grasslands can be found on every continent except Antarctica and in nearly every ecoregion. Grasslands are also one of the world’s major biomes, dominating the environment on a global scale. Natural grasslands, semi-natural grasslands, and farmed grasslands are the three types of grasslands. They occupy 31–43% of the Earth’s land surface.
Types of Natural Ecosystem
A natural ecosystem is a collection of animals and plants that works together as a unit and can sustain its identity. Solar energy is completely reliant on a natural ecosystem. Ecosystems are classified into two types. They are as follows:
- Terrestrial ecosystem: Forests, grasslands, deserts, and tundra are examples of land-based ecosystems.
- Aquatic ecosystem: Plant and animal communities found in bodies of water. Freshwater and marine ecosystems are the two subgroups of these ecosystems.
Types of Grasslands
- Tropical grasslands: They are found on both sides of the equator and extend all the way to the tropics. This plant grows well in areas with moderate to low rainfall. The grass can grow to a height of 3 to 4 meters. This is the sort of grassland that can be found in Africa’s Savannah. In tropical grasslands, elephants, zebras, giraffes, deer, and leopards are common.
- Temperate grasslands: These can be found in a variety of latitudinal zones as well as in the interiors of continents. The grass is usually short and healthy in this area. Buffaloes, bison, and antelopes are prevalent in the temperate zone.
- Thorny bushes: These can be found in dry desert-like conditions. Tropical deserts can be found on the western margins of the continents. The vegetation cover is low due to a lack of rain and high temperatures.
Components of Grassland Ecosystem
- Producers: Producers in grassland are primarily grasses, while a few plants and shrubs also contribute to primary biomass production.
- Consumers: In a grassland, there are three categories of consumers:
- Primary Consumers: Herbivores that graze on grasses are the main consumers. The principal consumers are herbivores such as grazing animals, insects, certain termites, and millipedes.
- Secondary Consumers: These are carnivores that eat other carnivores (Herbivores). Carnivores such as foxes, jackals, snakes, frogs, lizards, birds, and other animals feast on herbivores. These are the grassland ecosystem’s secondary consumers.
- Tertiary Consumers: These include hawks and other predators that prey on secondary consumers.
- Decomposers: Bacteria that cause death and decay, as well as molds and fungi, are among them. These return the minerals to the soil, making them available to the farmers once more.
- These include soil nutrients as well as the environment above the ground.
- Hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and Sulphur are the elements that plants require.
- CO2, water, nitrates, phosphates, and sulfides are all provided by the soil and the air.
- In addition to these, the soil contains a number of trace elements.
Functions of Grassland Ecosystem
- The transfer of energy through the food chain.
- Cycling nutrients (biogeochemical cycles).
- Ecological succession is the process by which an ecosystem develops.
- Control mechanisms for homeostasis (or cybernetic) or feedback.
- To improve the soil’s fertility and to keep the ecosystem’s productivity in check.
- To prevent mineral leaching as a result of insufficient rainfall.
Economic Importance of Grasslands
- Many rural communities have grasslands as grazing pastures.
- Cattle and goat farmers, as well as shepherds who rear sheep, are heavily reliant on grasslands.
- The village’s ‘common’ area is used to graze domestic animals.
- In the summer, when there is no grass left to graze, fodder is harvested and stored to feed cattle.
- Houses and farm structures are also covered in grass.
- The thorny bushes and branches of the few trees found in grasslands are an important source of fuelwood.
- Many grasslands have been degraded due to overgrazing by large herds of domestic cattle.
- Insects from a variety of species pollinate crops in grasslands.
- Small mammals like shrews, reptiles like lizards, birds of prey, and amphibia like frogs and toads are all predators of these insects.
- All of these predatory species aid in the control of insect pests in agricultural fields nearby.
Question 1: What is Natural Vegetation?
Plants that have developed naturally without human intervention and have been kept undisturbed for a long period are referred to as natural vegetation.
Question 2: Differentiate between flora and fauna?
Flora is a term that refers to the plants of a specific place or time period. The term “fauna” refers to animal species.
Question 3: Why are the southern slopes of the Himalayas covered with thicker vegetation as compared to northern slopes?
The Himalayas’ southern slopes receive direct sunshine, whereas the northern slopes receive indirect or oblique sunlight.
Question 4: How do the human beings influence the ecology of a region?
The vegetation and wildlife are used by humans. They take down forests for personal gain and murder animals for a variety of reasons. The ecological balance has been thrown off.
Question 5: What is a biome?
A-biome is a very large ecosystem on land with distinct types of vegetation and animal life.