Introduction

British Columbia is mountainous and rugged, but between the mountain ranges are valleys and high plateaus that are home to extensive grasslands.

A photograph of extensive grasslands in the Churn Creek area of the Chilcotin Click to enlarge,
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Grasslands in the Churn Creek area - C3622-CH-1006-om ©Chris Harris

In particular, the Chilcotin, Cariboo, Nicola, Thompson, and Okanagan regions form a unique area with wide ranges of grasslands, birds, animals, and other plants. British Columbia contains one of the largest remaining areas of inter-mountain grasslands in North America. Grasslands, however, are the most threatened major ecosystem in the province. They cover less than 1% of the province, yet support over 30% of its known threatened and vulnerable plant and animal species.

Grasslands are open areas where grasses or grass-like plants are the dominant vegetation, and where there are few trees. Grasses dominate other species, such as trees, because they are better able to thrive in hot, dry climates where rain is sparse in spring and summer.

A photograph of bunchgrass range in the Churn Creek Protected area Click to enlarge,
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Bunchgrass range in the Churn Creek area -C3682a-CH1006-pano-o-l2 ©Chris Harris

Grasses are also able to withstand grazing and fire. The growing point of most plants is situated at the tip of a leaf or shoot, but in grasses it is at the base, close to the ground. When a grass plant has been grazed or burned it is able to grow again from this protected base.

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