Elephants are the largest land mammals in the world and are a staple of many zoos. But what biome do elephants live in when in the wild?
Few people know this, but elephants play an important role in balancing the ecosystems they live in, so it pays for people to learn more about this animal. They ensure that grasslands are flat, which allows small animals to prosper and create homes for other creatures.
While elephants can also be found in forests and grasslands, most elephants call the African Savanna home. Asian elephants are also found in parts of India and Southeast Asia, where the forest is surrounded by grasslands.
These large mammals are critical to their ecosystem because they trample dense grasslands and forests to make room for smaller animals and help create water holes by digging dry river beds. Other animals also use these holes during times of low rainfall. Here, we will take a look at this large mammal and the biome that it calls home.
With years of expertise in various world biomes, including the savanna biome, we can help guide you on everything there is to know about the Savanna biome and its largest tenant – the elephant.
The Savanna Biome
Savannas are found primarily in the seasonal tropics, between equatorial rainforests and mid-latitude desert ecosystems, and are distinguished by the coexistence of trees and grasses. Savannas are described as landscapes with a continuous blanket of grass, but trees can be prominent in savannas.
Though extensive sections of the major tropical regions fit the criteria for savannas, determining whether they are natural or produced from human activity is far more difficult (e.g., burning). Tropical Africa embodies the image and grandeur of savannas, with huge swaths of grass, scarce trees, predators, and migratory herbivore herds.
The Savanna Biome is the largest in southern Africa, covering 46 percent of the continent and more than one-third of South Africa's land area. It is well-developed in South Africa's Lowveld and Kalahari regions and Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Botswana, where it is the dominant vegetation. A grassy ground layer and a distinct top layer of woody plants distinguish it. The vegetation is referred to as Shrubveld when it is close to the ground, Woodland when it is dense, and Bushveld when it is in the intermediate stages.
The environmental elements that define the biome's boundaries are numerous: The biome contains almost every major geological and soil type, with altitudes ranging from sea level to 2 000 m, rainfall ranging from 235 to 1 000 mm per year, frost ranging from 0 to 120 days per year, and almost every major geological and soil type.
The absence of sufficient rainfall, which prevents the higher layer from dominating, as well as fires and grazing, which keep the grass layer dominant, is a primary factor delimiting the biome. Summer rainfall is necessary for grass dominance, which feeds near-annual fires with its fine particles. In fact, practically all species have evolved to withstand flames, with less than 10% of plants killed by fire in both the grass and tree layers.
Climate is an important feature of any ecosystem. The Savanna habitat has a warm climate, with temperatures that can go up to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The area gets moderate rainfall, which can range up to 30 inches per year; as a result, the savanna has a dry season that lasts virtually the entire year.
Summers in the savanna are moist (6–8 months), and winters are dry (4 to 6 months). During the dry season, the plants and trees in the Savanna ecosystem either die or lose their leaves as a result of the harsh climatic circumstances.
Savanna Biome Plants
Because of the scarcity of trees, the savanna is also called grassland. The harsh environment of the Savanna ecosystem prevents abundant plants from developing. The vegetation consists largely of grasses and scattered trees and has adapted to the Savanna climatic circumstances. Only the plants that can withstand scorching weather and less water can thrive in the Savanna habitat.
Grass in the Savanna habitat grows quickly during the rainy season but becomes brown during the dry season. Because of the numerous fires, the grass has shrunk in size. Some plants and trees have grown lengthy roots to reach water levels underground to survive in the Savanna ecosystem's dry conditions. The grasses have evolved an adaptation that permits them to grow swiftly when there is enough water in order to withstand dry season and recurrent fires.
When water is scarce, the grasses become brown in order to prevent water loss. While they wait for the rainy season to return, they store moisture and nutrients in their roots. The grasses can withstand the impacts of fire because they have food and water stores underneath. In reality, fire promotes new growth and nutrient replenishment in the soil.
The savanna is a vital habitat on the planet. This is why we must protect this unique environment for future generations and the region's flora and animals. Climate change and global warming have also harmed the savanna ecology. As a result, certain savanna grassland plants and animal species have gone extinct or are becoming endangered.
Savanna Biome Animals
The African savannah, which most people are familiar with, is home to a diverse range of creatures. Elephants, lions, zebras, rhinos, and cheetahs are just a few of the creatures. Birds, insects, and both large and small creatures thrive in the savannah during the rainy season; however, the rainy season only lasts 8 months. Because the soil is exceptionally porous, surface water from rain is swiftly absorbed into the ground during the dry season. During the dry season, there is fierce competition for water. As a result, most birds and many big animals move in search of water throughout the dry season.
The vegetation in the savanna is sparse, with few trees, shrubs, and vast meadows. The main cause of poor flora in the Savanna environment is a lack of rainfall and a dry climate. The savanna, on the other hand, is quite diverse in terms of biodiversity. It is home to a broad range of animal species, including carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, as well as scavengers.
Elephants do migrate, but they have a physical adaptation that allows them to obtain water that other animals cannot. Baobab trees have huge trunks that retain water. The elephant's physical power and morphology allow it to rip the baobab tree's trunk apart and drink the water inside. Small burrowing creatures have an adaptation that allows them to go dormant during droughts, much like bears do in other biomes during the winter.
Elephants – The Largest Tenants of the Savanna
Only two continents are home to elephants: Africa and Asia. African elephants are larger than Asian elephants. African elephants may be found across Sub-Saharan Africa in a variety of habitats, ranging from the savannas to the highlands. Asian elephants are found in parts of India and Southeast Asia, where the forest is surrounded by grasslands.
The savanna is home to the majority of African elephants. It's mostly grassland, with a few trees strewn about. Savannas cover over half of Africa's land area. The savanna receives up to 50 inches of rainfall per year on average, and the temperature ranges from 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
The elephant's trunk, or proboscis, is one of the most adaptable organs in the animal kingdom. The trunk is anatomically a combination of the upper lip and the nose, with the nostrils at the tip. The trunk is massive and powerful, weighing around 290 pounds and capable of lifting a burden of roughly 250 kg in an adult male. It is, nevertheless, incredibly nimble, mobile, and sensitive, giving it the appearance of being practically self-contained from the rest of the animal.
The elephants consume the leaves, twigs, and bark from the savanna's trees. They may even uproot plants and trees with their robust trunks and feast on the roots. Other adaptations that help elephants thrive, aside from their trunks, include their strong social bonding ability and high intelligence.
Rain pours for six to eight months; then, there is no rain for four to six months. The fact that droughts happen every year is significant. Fires burn through the vegetation during the drought, but it grows back after the wet season. If this does not occur, the savanna will be transformed into a tropical forest.
The African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) can weigh up to 13,000 pounds and grow up to 13 ft tall at the shoulder. The Asian elephant has long been used as a ceremonial and draught animal in Asia. Elephants are not technically domesticated since they have not been subjected to selective breeding for "improvement" of features sought by humans, as cattle, horses, and dogs have been. Asian elephants have been domesticated from the 3rd millennium BCE, according to historical documents.
About THE AUTHOR
James Parker has a Masters degree in Sustainability with a focus on land management, permaculture and regenerative agriculture. He also has experience managing sustainability projects, and is passionate about conservation and sustainability.Read More About James Parker