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A Brief Overview of the Savanna Biomes

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 6/6/2012

Savannas cover a large part of Africa, and are also found in Australia, India and South America. This guide provides a concise outline of the climate and types of savanna biomes, as well as the plants and animals you can expect to find in this important world biome.

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    Savanna biomes are best described as a rolling grassland with isolated trees and shrubs scattered about, which is found between a desert biome and tropical rainforest. Also referred to as tropical grasslands, there is not enough rainfall to sustain forests. These biomes are located on the edges of tropical rainforests, on each side of the equator.

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    Climate and Weather

    All throughout the year, savannas have warm temperatures. This biome has two different seasons. The winter season is very dry and long, while the summer season is very wet.

    About four inches of rain falls during the dry season, and no rain falls at all between December and February. This season is actually cooler, with temperatures average about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

    During the summer months, there is a lot of rainfall. Monsoon rains start in May in Africa. About 15 to 25 inches of rain falls during May. The temperature becomes very humid and hot during the rainy season. During the summer, the rain will pour down for several hours during the afternoon.

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    Types of Savannas

    savanna biome Throughout the world, there are several different kinds of savanna biomes. The most familiar are the ones in East Africa that are full of acacia trees. The most well-known are the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania. This area has many animals, such as lions, elephants, giraffes, and zebras.

    The South American savannas occupy about 2.5 million square kilometers and are found in Colombia, Brazil, and Venezuela. This area contains animals that spill in from neighboring biomes. The Orinoco River annually floods Colombia and the Llanos of the Orinoco basin of Venezuela. The plants in this biome have become used to being in standing water for prolonged periods of time. Marsh deer and the capybara have become used to a semi-aquatic life.

    Northern Australia also has a savanna biome. This biome is known for its eucalyptus trees and kangaroos, but very little animal diversity.

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    Plants and Animals

    The large variety of animals in the savannas throughout the world are highly specialized. In order for the environment to maintain its balance, these animals all depend on one another.

    In Africa, there are over 40 different hoofed mammal species and 16 different browser species. These herbivores make a large selection for the carnivores, such as leopards, lions, cheetahs, hyenas, and jackals.

    Due to farming and overgrazing, large areas of the savanna become lost to the Sahara desert each year.

    Common savanna animals include:

    • African elephant
    • Black mamba
    • Chacma Baboon
    • Emu
    • Koala bear
    • Nigriceps ants
    • African wild dog
    • Caracal
    • Egyptian mongoose
    • Grant's zebra
    • Lion
    • Nile crocodile

    Common savanna plants include:

    • Acacia senegal
    • Bermuda grass
    • Elephant grass
    • Jackalberry tree
    • Kangaroo paw
    • River bushwillow
    • Whistling thorn
    • Baobab
    • Candelabra tree
    • Gum tree eucalyptus
    • Jarrah tree
    • Manketti tree
    • Umbrella thorn acacia
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    Image Credits

    Savanna in Kiang West National Park: Ikiwaner – Wikimedia Commons

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    Resources

    South Africa National Biodiversity Institute. (2010). Savanna Biome. Retrieved on September 25, 2010 from the South Africa National Biodiversity Institute: http://www.plantzafrica.com/vegetation/savanna.htm

    University of California Museum of Paleontology. (2002). The Grassland Biome. Retrieved on September 25, 2010 from the University of California Museum of Paleontology: http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/exhibits/biomes/grasslands.php