Which is better for grassland: a grassland or a wetland adaptation
Two of the most popular explanations for why grasslands thrive in Australia are climate and water.
But while they have been widely discussed, there’s not a lot of scientific evidence to support them.
So which one is the right one?
It depends on the kind of grassland you’re talking about.
Some areas are rich in water and are able to support large populations of grasslands.
Others are more drought-prone and lack enough water to support grasslands in their own right.
These grasslands are sometimes called tropical grasslands because they can grow anywhere from tall grass to tall shrubs.
But they can also grow as tall as 30 metres and are a common sight on Australia’s remote south-east coast.
“We have a number of places where it’s just really difficult to tell which is which,” Dr Chris Wilson, from the Queensland Museum, told the ABC.
“There’s a lot that depends on where you live.”
How do you tell the difference?
The answer depends on what you’re looking for.
The Queensland Museum’s Dr Wilson said that grassland adaptations are usually best suited to areas that have low soil moisture.
“When the soil dries up, you can actually see the grass grow because of that,” he said.
“If it’s wet and dry, it’s more like a wet-wetland because you’re not getting as much moisture.”
This means the vegetation will be more exposed to the elements.
Dr Wilson says that grasslands adapted to dry environments can produce some of the best water-management systems in the country.
“The wetland environment will often be quite good for grasslands,” he explained.
“So, it won’t necessarily be good for a tropical grassland, it’ll be good at wetland and dryland.”
A grassland adaptation will usually be able to grow in wet or dry conditions.
So, for example, if you’re living in an area where there’s very little rainfall, you might want to consider a grasslands adaptation.
But if you want a more resilient, long-lasting ecosystem, Dr Wilson recommends planting a grasses adaptable plant, like a tall shrub.
“These are plants that can grow to a height of 10 metres, but they will be able tolerate drought,” he told the Queensland Zoo.
“They will not need to have much water.
So the idea is that they are a long-term, resilient plant that will be a great place to grow.”
How does it work?
The best example of an adaptation is a shrub that is able to tolerate drought but also to tolerate water.
This shrub can be a wet or a dry grassland.
Dr John Tumpey from the University of Queensland, who studies the effects of climate on grasslands says the shrub will take up less water when it’s dry than when it is wet.
“It’s actually better to plant a shrubs adapted to wetland because it’s also easier to maintain,” he explains.
But, Dr Tumpeter also says that there are other benefits to adapting to a wetter environment, including reduced stress on the plants.
“You can’t have too much water because there’s going to be a stress response,” he says.
“And so if you’ve got plants that are adapted to drought you’re going to need more water.”
Dr Tuspey says the research is still in its early stages and that it’s not yet clear whether these adaptations can be made to adapt to a dry climate.
“But it does seem like there is a lot more to it than just water management,” he concludes.
But why would you want to plant grasslands if you don’t need them?
It’s possible that if you do need grasslands to survive, you could plant them to take advantage of water resources.
But Dr Tumneter cautions that you could also be hurting your environment by planting too many shrubs in the wrong place.
“Even though there are many examples of plants that have adapted to different conditions, there is one thing that is universal to all of them: they need water,” he argues.
“I don’t think there’s any other plant in the world that can take advantage on all the different habitats, all of the different types of soil, all the climate conditions.”
What about rainforest and native grasslands?
While there are a number places in Australia where grasslands can thrive, most are located in low-lying wetland areas that are unsuitable for grasses.
So where does that leave the Australian native grassland?
Dr Tummeter says there are plenty of places that are suitable for native grasses to flourish.
“In the north-west of Australia, the grasslands will often have areas where it can be dry and where it will be wet, so that’s one area where you can get grasses,” he points out.
“On the west coast of Australia the grassland may be