Rangelands: Characteristics, Types, & Importance

The rangeland is an open area that is suitable for grazing livestock. Land on which indigenous vegetation is predominately grasses, grass-like plants, forbs, and possibly shrubs or dispersed trees. Rangelands comprise almost half of the landmass of the world.

Characteristics of rangelands

  • They are low rainfall or moisture stress areas.
  • The land is not suitable for agriculture.
  • May have very high or low temperatures.
  • The land is usually degraded (rocky/stony).
  • Low soil fertility.
  • Presence of high-quality grasses and legumes.
  • Grasses should have a high regenerative ability after being fed by animals and should withstand the trampling effect.
  • The growing season of the vegetation is shorter.
  • Prevalence of rain shadow.
  • Contains no weeds except some plants for shade.
  • The area may have a desert-like environmental situation.
  • Poor drainage.
  • Vegetation is usually uncultivated.

Types of rangeland of the world

  1. Prairie
  2. Grasslands
  3. Pampas
  4. Steppe
  5. ShrubLand
  6. Woodland
  7. Tundra
  8. Savanna
  9. Wetlands
  10. Deserts


They are temperate grasslands with vegetation dominated by grasses, herbs, and shrubs dominantly found in North America.


Dominated by plants in the family Gramineae. They are considered as most productive rangelands in the world for providing forage for wild and domestic ungulates.


They are fertile South American lowlands having vegetation dominated by Poaceae species.


It is a vast semiarid grassland found in southeast Europe, Siberia, and Central North America.


These are the areas having vegetation dominated by shrubs and also geophytes.


They are low-dense forests forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade. They may support an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants including grasses.


Tundra is an area having very low temperatures with very little precipitation. Basically, it is a cold, treeless area.


They occur as a transition zone between grassland and forests and consist of tropical vegetation. They have a productive herbaceous understory dominated by scattered, low-growing trees, less than 12m tall.


Wetlands having vegetation come under rangeland in which animals graze.


They are low rainfall areas having less than 30cm rainfall/year with bushy vegetations.

Rangelands of Nepal

Tropical rangelands

They are located in the southern part of Nepal up to 1000m from sea level. Covers about 2.92% of the total land of Nepal. The area is dominated by the grasses like Phragmites karka, Saccharum spontaneum (Kaans) and Imperata cylindrica (Siru). These grasses have low feedig value, however provides excellent shelter to the wildlife.

Sub-tropical rangelands

Found up to elevations of 1000-2000m and covers about 1.21% of the land of Nepal. Grasses like Arundinella, Themeda, Thysanolaena maxima (Amriso), and Desmostychia bipinnata (Kush) are dominant in this region. These are open grazing lands, appearing in small patches and mostly associated with Pinus roxburgii forests.

Temperate rangelands

Found up to an altitude of 2000-3000m, covering about 17.20% of the land of NepalThe common forage species are Andropogon tristis, Poa spp, Chrysopogongryllus, Dactylisglomerata, Stipaconcinna, Festuca spp., Cymbopogon spp., Bothriochloa spp., Desmodium spp. and Agrostismicrantha. These pasture lands are very important, but due to heavy grazing for many years, more palatable species like Andropogon tristis have been replaced by less palatable species such as Arundinella hookeri.

Sub-alpine rangelands

They are found upto an altitude of 3000-4000m and covers about 29.80% of land of NepalThese rangelands are inportant sources of animal feed for migratory stock. Berberis, Caragana and danthonia are common.

Alpine rangelands

They are found at an altitude above 4000m and cover about 48.87% of the land of Nepal. Land is mostly covered with snow most of the year. During summer when the snow melts the grasses grow very quickly and complete the life cycle. During this period this rangeland provides 3-4 months of grazing to the nomadic herds of Yak, Chauris and sheep. Aster and Poa spp are some dominant vegetation.

Importance of Rangelands

  • Rangelands provide a diversity of ecosystems and also provide a diverse and significant production of economic benefits and ecosystem goods and services.
  • Rangeland provides grazing and forages for livestock and wild animals.
  • A habitat for a wide array of native flora and fauna.
  • Source for leaf litter for composting and animal bedding materials.
  • Rangeland watersheds are important regulators of the quantity and quality of water in streams, lakes, and aquifers. It provides water for sustainable landscapes.
  • Rangeland can be a very important tourist destination for recreation, hiking, camping, and other eco-tourism activities.
  • Rangeland can be associated with historical, cultural, aesthetic, and spiritual values.
  • The foundation for low-input, fully renewable food and fiber production systems of grazing industries.
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