The main temperate grasslands are the steppe in Eurasia, the prairies of North America, the downs of Australia and New Zealand and the pampa of Argentina. Temperate grasslands produce plants with long, extensive roots that dig deep into the mollisol (soft, nutrient-rich) soil. This type of massive root structure creates a dense net that develops a sod layer anchoring plants to the soil, which reduces erosion, retains water, and was once used to make homes because of its density. As the roots decay, a dark brown soil (sometimes called chernozem or "black soil") forms which is very fertile.

EcosystemsTemperate grasslands contain short grasses with few trees. Rainfall determines plant density, resulting in thick or clumpy growth. Smooth, fine grasses with lateral grow form a carpet of grass called a sward and wiry, coarse grasses which grow upwards form clumps called tussocks (Lambert, 1987). The temperate grasslands are often very colorful. Most temperate grasslands are inland and are therefore much windier with tornadoes, bursters, northers, burans, and chinooks. Temperature extremes are wider than anywhere in the world, but annual rainfall averages from 12-20 inches.

Many different types of animals and insects thrive on the forage in temperate grasslands. Aphids, grubs, grasshoppers, and caterpillars each enjoy different parts of the local vegetation. Rabbits, hares, prairie dogs, and countless smaller rodents: gerbils, hamsters, mice, squirrels, chinchillas and rat kangaroos forage on the various grasslands. Australian kangaroos, South American guanacos, North American bison and antelope all forage, but are also hunted by predators such as wolves. Birds are consumers of seeds and grasses and also predators to other foragers. The animals and fowl of the prairies have a palette of ways to survive the cold winters including burrows, hibernation, winter coats and migration.

The temperate grasslands have been utilized by hunters, herders, and shepherds of the world. Whether Native Americans, Aborigine gatherers, Maori, Mongol or Bantu farmers or nomadic Kazak of Afghanistan, people have benefited from the plains and the animals that forage there. Although the grasslands have been used by man for thousands of years, they were not really invaded and transformed until the late 1800's. Railroads, plows, machinery, and other inventions finally made the temperate grasslands manageable for more extensive usage, most of it in cereal crop production. However, with these tools came near destruction of the natural grasslands. While killing off wild grazing animals, farmers and ranchers also misused the land and interrupted the balanced cycle that existed with plants, animals and soil. The most striking example of how the natural cycle of grasslands can be upset occurred in the early 1900's on the prairies of North America. The "Dust Bowl" was a term applied to an area around Oklahoma when severe drought and mismanagement ruined the crops and eventually the soil. As with the the tropical savannas, the temperate steppes and prairies can only survive and benefit mankind if properly managed. Much of the temperate grasslands have been put into crop farming and although this has done much to feed the world, the role of forages in these areas cannot be underestimated. China is currently working to rejuvenate their grasslands which once nourished the empires of the Khans and others but have been mismanaged over time. Grasslands around the world were created by the relationships between plants, animals and soil and they will only survive when that continuum is understood and respected.