Savannah, also known as savanna Spanish origin and means “Grassland”. An ecosystem is made of a combination of woodland and grassland. Savannah areas are defined by a lot of trees growing in an area that does not have a canopy, which allows light to reach the ground and support grasses, and also by the seasonal availability of water.  

At least 20% of the land on Earth is considered savannah. Some savannahs are tropical, and these are sometimes referred to as tropical grassland. Areas of savannah are usually located in a transitional zone between desert and forest. Savannah is found in areas with insufficient rainfall to support a forest, usually in the regions that experience wet and dry seasons. Savannahs are considered a type of grassland and are typically open and flat. In the dry season, wildfires are common in savannah areas.

Read on to learn all about the savannah what’s in a name, including information on savannah physical features and handy resources for you to know.

Types of Savannah

Several types of savannah vary depending on the location and climates. As like Australia’s gulf country Savannah in the northern territory

  • Tropical & Subtropical Savannah – which are made up of tropical grasslands and shrublands. The most notable example of this biome is the savannah of Africa. These areas are known for their varied and exotic animals and provide a habitat for a diverse range of species. Another large tropical savannah can be found in Australia and South America.
  • Temperate Savannah – which has wetter summers and drier winters than other Savannah types. An example of this type of Savannah is the Great Plains of the United States. This type of Savannah has many names depending on where they are located in the world. In the US they are called prairies, whilst in Asia, they are called steppes.
  • Mediterranean Savannah – which has mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. As the name suggests, this biome can be found across the Mediterranean, including Spain, Italy, and Greece, but also in areas of California, Australia, and South America.
  • Flooded Savannah – which as the name suggests, regularly experience flooding, either seasonally or year-round. These regions are smaller than other Savannah but are found worldwide, and are home to unique ecosystems that have adapted to the wet environment.
  • Montane Savannah – which is a savannah located at high altitudes, usually on the sides of mountains. The largest and most prominent montane savannah are found in Asia, Africa, and South America. Animals that live in these areas have adapted to wet and cool conditions, as well as harsh sunlight.

Physical Features

Many physical features set the savannah apart from other biomes.

  • Scattered Trees – the most prominent of the savannah’s physical features is its scattered trees. These trees are what distinguish the Savannah from other grasslands. The scattered trees in the Savannah grow above a layer of continuous tall grass between the forest canopy and the ground a frequently used name for cafes in Sydney and across NSW.
  • Wet and Dry Seasons – another of the key savannah physical features is its 2 distinct seasons a wet season and a dry season. Savannah is typically in regions around 8° to 20° from the Equator, which means that, regardless of the season, the conditions are always very hot. The dates of the savannahs wet season vary depending on which hemisphere it is in. In the Southern Hemisphere, the wet season typically occurs from October to March, and in the Northern Hemisphere, it occurs from April to September. During this wet season, there is an average annual rainfall of 80 to 150 cm, although this tends to be lower in the more central continental locations. However, the savannahs dry season is generally longer than the wet season, its length can vary massively from just 2 months to 11 months. The average monthly temperature during the dry season is about 10 to 20 °C and about 20 to 30 °C in the wet season.
  • Large Herds of Animals  – the savannah is extremely rich in grasses and tree life, which makes it attractive to large herbivores. For so many different types of herbivorous animals to live in the savannah, many species have adapted to eat different plants. For instance, some animals are designed to eat low grass, while others are built for eating the leaves high up in the trees. With the large herds of herbivores comes a range of predators. Animals such as lions, hyenas, cheetahs, leopards, and wild dogs are some of the most common predators found in savannah. Over time, the herbivorous animals in the savannah have developed a range of clever techniques to avoid predators. For instance, animals like gazelles and ostriches use their speed to try to outrun their predators. Alternatively, for animals like the giraffe, for whom running is not a viable option, they use their height to spot predators from far off. Moreover, elephants use their massive strength and size to fight off predators. Similarly, predators in the savannah have also developed their techniques to catch their prey. Eg, the cheetah, which is the fastest land animal in the world, uses its immense speed to catch its prey, getting up to 70mph in short bursts. Moreover, predators like lions and hyenas hunt in groups and focus on separating the weakest animals from the rest of the herd.
  • Fires – another of the savannah’s physical features are the many fires that occur there. Whilst fires are typically viewed in a negative light, they play a key role in maintaining the savannahs vegetation. During the dry season, fires are needed to clear out the old, dead grass to make way for new growth to occur. Most of the plants in the savannah will survive the fires, as they have long, deep roots that allow them to grow back quickly after. The trees are also able to survive due to their thick bark. The animals that live in the savannah are also able to escape the fires unharmed. Some animals run to escape the fire, whilst others burrow deep into the ground to find safety. Unfortunately, millions of insects tend to die in the fires, but the bright side of this is that it provides ample food for other birds and animals.

What Animals Live in the Savannah?

Because savannahs are widespread across the world and differ in their climate and seasons, there are a huge number of animals that call the savannah their home. The most famous and recognisable type of savannah, the African savannah, also happens to be home to some of the most famous and recognisable types of animals, such as giraffes, lions, rhinos, zebras, and buffalo.

Worldwide, there are many more animals that are native to the savannah. Kangaroos, ostriches, crocodiles, snakes, meerkats, leopards, and cheetahs can all be found in various types of Savannah across the world, and each of them has specific adaptations that make them well-suited for living in the type of Savannah that they occupy.

Large animals are common in pretty much all savannah except the Australian savannah. The Australian savannah is inhabited by many species of the Macropodidae family, which includes the likes of kangaroos and wallabies. This is because, several thousand years ago, after human beings first arrived, a wide variety of very large mammals and reptiles became extinct. Today, in their place, you will find a range of both domesticated and wild animals that have been introduced by humans. These animals include cattle, horses, camels, donkeys, and the Asian water buffalo.

Plants Are Found in the Grassland

Plants in the savannah, much like plants in other biomes, rely on sunlight to supply them with the energy they need to perform photosynthesis. Sunlight is abundant in savannahs, particularly in tropical savannahs as they are so close to the equator. This means that plants can receive around 10 to 12 hours of sunlight most days of the year. Savannah is dominated by grasses, hence why another term for tropical savannah is ‘grassland’.

Some of the plants you will find in the savannah are:

  • Rhodes grass
  • Red oats grass
  • Tar grass
  • Eucalyptus trees
  • Acacias

Threats are faced by the Savannah?

The main threat faced by the savannah of the world is humans, who regularly cut down trees in the savannah, which upsets the delicate ecological balance of these areas. Farmers will deforest areas of the savannah and then use the grass to feed cattle, which can make the savannah turn barren.

Humans are not the only threat to the savannah, however. Just as grazing cattle can severely reduce the amounts of grass in a savannah area, herds of wild animals grazing will also reduce the amount of grass. This is why predators in the savannah play an important role in the ecosystem, as they keep the number of grazing herbivores down.

The savannah is also threatened during outbreaks of wildfires. These fires often spread during the dry season, and burn through dry grass and young trees. These fires sometimes occur naturally, and they play an important role in reducing the tree canopy. However, wildfires started by humans can do more damage. Herbivores play a role in reducing the chances of wildfires starting by grazing on plants before they get a chance to dry out.