Grasslands

Vegetation formation map


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Key:
<1%
1-10%
10-50%
>50%
Estimated percentage landcover for vegetation formation

Overview

With a distribution extending from an exposed, humid coastline to the hot, arid interior of western New South Wales, grasslands are immensely variable environments dominated by large perennial tussock grasses, with broad-leafed herbs growing in the inter-tussock spaces, and a conspicuous absence of woody plants.

The broad-leaved herbs may die back in response to drought or competition for resources such as space, light, soil moisture or nutrients. Those growing in temperate regions tend to be perennial and regenerate from buds, bulbs or tubers, while those in semi-arid regions are ephemeral, spending most of their lifecycle as soil-stored seed that germinate and grow for a short period after rain. Temporary gaps in tussock cover may also occur after fire, grazing, animal diggings or death of old tussocks.

The lack of woody plants mean that many animals use grasslands as foraging grounds, seeking shelter and protection in other habitats. Grasslands were once home to an abundance of mammals, birds, reptiles and herbivorous insects, however many have declined in number, disappeared entirely from this environment or are now extinct.

Grasslands are valued for pastoral grazing as many native tussock grasses and perennial herbs were palatable to stock. However species differ in their resilience to grazing pressure and, as a result, many grazed grasslands now exhibit altered species composition. Many grassland regions have been cleared or modified as ‘improved’ pastures, where chemical fertilisers and sowing of introduced grass and legume species is used to lift short-term productivity. Remnant native grasslands are mostly small and fragmented, with most floristically rich patches occurring in cemeteries, churchyards and along roadsides, where they have largely escaped agricultural development.

Threatened species in this vegetation formation

See a list of species, populations and ecological communities associated with the Grasslands formation.

Find species in a more specific vegetation class

The Grasslands formation can be divided into the following classes. Select a vegetation class on the list below to see a list of species associated with it: