The vast expanses of grass in North America and Eurasia once sustained vast migrations of large vertebrates such as buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), saiga (Saiga tatarica), and Tibetan antelopes (Pantholops hodgsoni) and kiang (Equus hemionus). Such extraordinary phenomena now occur only in isolated pockets, primarily in the Daurian Steppe and Tibetan Plateau (see Montane Grasslands)1).
The extraordinary floral communities of the Eurasian steppes and the North American Great Plains, have been largely extirpated through conversion to agriculture. Nonetheless, as many as 300 different plant species may grow on less than 3 acres of North American tallgrass prarie, which also may support more than 3 million individual insects per acre. The Patagonian Steppe and Grasslands are notable for distinctiveness at the generic and familial level in a variety of taxa.
Relatively low alpha, beta, and gamma diversity, except for some exceptionally rich floras in some regions; most species have relatively widespread distributions; some larger vertebrate species may occur in great abundance.
Many vagile species require large natural landscapes to be able to track seasonal or patchy resources, or to move from areas impacted by large-scale disturbances such as fire; the presence of water and riparian vegetation important for many species; large natural areas are needed to maintain natural fire regimes which are important for maintaining community structure and composition.
Sensitivity to Disturbance
Plowing of grasslands, savannas, and shrublands can drastically alter species compositions and the restoration potential of natural communities; excessive burning or fire suppression can dramatically alter community structure and composition; loss and degradation of riparian or gallery forest habitats and water sources has significant impacts on wildlife; overgrazing causes significant community changes, erosion, and reduction in restoration potential; loss of keystone species such as buffalo, saiga, and prairie dogs can have major impacts on animal and plant communities.
In this habitat are the following ecoregions:
(94) Northern Prairie
(95) Patagonian Steppe
(96) Daurian Steppe