Savannah Background Information
A savannah is not a dry arid place like most people think. A savannah is a cross between a grassland and a desert. A savannah is a tropical grassland because this biome is located at tropical latitudes, but it is drier than most tropical forests. A majority of the world's savannahs are located in Africa, but they can also be found in South America, India, and Australia. Rainfall in this biome is between 20 to 60 inches per year, and it usually falls within a period of weeks. Growth occurs after the rainfall, but long periods of drought will follow. Temperatures usually average mid 80's, but they can reach as high as 100 degrees F.
In the savannahs, the dominant plant life are small plants and grasses, such as Elephant Grass, Heather, and Acacia. The grasses are kept low by wildebeasts and in some places, water buffaloes. Trees only dot the landscape. The wild fruit trees provide food for many of the birds and animals.
There are many different species that live in savannahs. Forty percent of the wildlife are mammals, such as the lion, zebra, giraffe, tiger, baboons, elephant, rhinoceros, and gazelle. There are amphibians, such as the African Tree Frog. Hundreds of birds live in this habitat, like the vulture, flamingo, and marabou stork. Many of the animals have adapted to this climate, such as the cheetah, who developed the ability to pursue their prey at high speeds.
Farming and herding are the major ways of living. Permanent settlement is limited by the long dry season, uncertain rainfall, and poor soils. Overgrazing and cultivation of marginal soils already low in plant nutrients are destroying what were once rich farming lands. In the savannahs, trees are cut down over a large area and then stacked on fields, where they are burned. The wood ash adds fertilizer to the soil. Crops like sorghum, millet, and cassava are grown for several years, until the soil is exhausted. Then the farmers must move on. In places where cattle are raised, fertilizer is used to prolong the fertility of the soil, but pests, disease, and drought cause many problems. Many farmers and herders are moving from the savannahs towards the South to port cities in search of work.
College of the Siskiyous Geography Slide Shows
Savannah Grassland by Erin and Emily
A Closer Look at a Savannah
Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. World Geography Today. Revised Edition. Austin, TX: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997.
English, Paul Ward. Geography: People and Places in a Changing World. Revised Second Edition. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Company, 1997.
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