Global Biodiversity in a Changing Environment

Volume 152 of the series Ecological Studies pp 121-137

Temperate Grasslands

  • Osvaldo E. Sala

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The temperate-grassland biome occupies a large portion of the planet. Temperate grasslands represent the potential natural vegetation of an area of 49 × 106km2, which is equivalent to 36% of the earth’s surface (Shantz 1954). This estimate of the area occupied by grasslands excludes savannas, but it does include grass and shrub deserts. The area covered exclusively by grasslands is 15 × 106km2, which accounts for 11% of the earth’s surface. The grassland biome occurs in almost all continents (Singh et al. 1983) from the Americas to Asia and from Europe to Australia (Fig. 7.1). In North America, most of the Great Plains is dominated by grasslands from the boundary with subtropical biomes in the south of the United States to the boundary with the Canadian temperate forest in the north. In South America, the pampas and large expanses of Patagonia are covered by grasslands. In Asia, vast areas are occupied by grasslands from Ukraine to China.