Biodiversity Adventure Story: Evolutionary Ecology of Grasslands

New York Times (Opinionator Blog) – As a group, grasses have been wildly successful. Today, the grass family contains more than 10,000 species — that’s more species of grass than species of bird — and grasslands cover about a third of the planet’s landmasses. (“Grassland” refers to an ecosystem, like prairie, where grasses dominate; it doesn’t mean they are the only plants there.) Grasses can be tall (think bamboo) or short (think lawns), and they include our most important crops. Rice, wheat, rye, oats, maize, millet, barley, sorghum and sugar cane are all grasses. We humans are dependent on grasses: we get more than half our calories directly from the tetrad of rice, wheat, maize and sugar cane, and we feed grasses to our sheep, goats, horses and cows. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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