The open spaces of the world’s savannas are found mostly in the tropical areas of the globe. The word savanna comes from the 16th-century word zavanna, which means “treeless plain.” However, the term is used to describe a more varied habitat, made up of large expanses of grasses, often one or two types that create a continuous carpet, interrupted by scattered shrubs and trees.
Savannas occur where there isn’t enough rain to support a tropical rainforest, but there is enough to keep it from becoming a desert. There is usually a dry season and a rainy season in the savanna, with strong, hot winds in the dry season and enough rain in the wet season to flood low-lying areas. Some examples of savanna habitat are the East African plains, the South American pampas, and the open woodlands of northern Australia.
The savanna is home to large herds of grazing wildlife and the predators that follow them. It is a carefully balanced ecosystem that can easily be disturbed by changes in climate, an imbalance in the number and type of wildlife, and human influences such as farming and cattle herding. Fire also has an important role in the savanna, burning out old grass growth and new tree saplings, making way for the new grasses that herbivores like gazelles depend upon.