Endangered Species Handbook

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Grasslands, Shrublands, Deserts

Drylands of the World: NORTH AMERICA

     Just 200 years ago, North America's magnificent grasslands preserved the largest population of hoofed mammals in the world.  Herds of American Bison totaled an estimated 60 million animals, almost 60 times the number of wildebeests that now inhabit East Africa.  A mosaic of grasslands of various types stretched from the Midwest to the Pacific Ocean, merging into deserts in the Southwest.  Some grassland habitats also existed in the Northeastern United States, a mixture of grassland and heath, either of natural origin or maintained by annual burns set by Native Americans.  Grasslands, shrub and desert covered about one-third of the United States prior to settlement (Petty 1973).  Grassland occupied approximately 17 percent; shrublands and deserts 8 percent each.  Many parts of the latter areas are mixed habitats with grassland-shrub and shrub-desert communities.  Grasslands once covered far more area in the Southwest prior to settlement, but today many of these have turned to desert after centuries of cattle grazing. 

Page 1 (The Past)
Page 2 (Effects)
Page 3 (Tallgrass Prairie)
Page 4 (Endangered)
Page 5 (Farmers)
Page 6 (National Parks and Ranchers)
Page 7 (Shortgrass Prairie)
Page 8 (Shrubland)
Page 9 (Desertland)
Page 10 (Re-establishing species)
Page 11 (Pesticides and Disease)


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    ©1983 Animal Welfare Institute