What are the Pampas?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
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  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2016
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The pampas are a series of sprawling grassy plains that stretch across the South-Central region of South America, wandering through Argentina, Brazil, and Peru. This region is sometimes referred to as simply La Pampa, and it is an iconic part of the South American landscape. It is also a very distinctive environment ecologically, a cause of some concern to scientists, who are worried that exploitation of the plains for farming may cause irreparable harm to this region.

This region of South America has a very temperate climate, with no temperature extremes or excessive snow or rain, which makes it ideal for agriculture. Rainfall is sufficient to support a wide variety of native plants and animals, and in some regions, the plains become humid, while in other regions, they are more arid. A broad assortment of unique native plants and animals are supported in the area, having adapted to the environment to make it home.

In the river valleys that streak the pampas, trees typically thrive, sheltered by the walls of the valley from the winds which sweep the area. On the plains themselves, a broad assortment of grasses and herbs can be found, along with shrubs. This region is also periodically scoured by fire, so much of the growth tends to be new, and some of the plants that grow there have evolved specifically to require fire for germination.


South American natives have been taking advantage of the resources of the pampas for centuries, and when Europeans discovered the site, they quickly realized its potential. By 1550, cattle had been exported in large numbers to the area, resulting in a profound change of the natural environment. Further changes have been brought about by aggressive agriculture, threatening the plants and animals which call the region home.

Cattle ranches have severely damaged the region through overgrazing, and cattle also muddy and foul the rivers in the region, causing problems downstream. Heavy agriculture has stripped the soil of nutrients and placed heavy demands on water supplies, as farmers experiment with plants that are not native, and the need for fire suppression to protect farming has resulted in the eruption of catastrophic wildfires, as dead plant material and brush are allowed to build up instead of being routinely burned away.


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Post 4

One plant from this region that people grow in the United States often is pampas grass. Many of my neighbors have this in their yards.

It grows in huge clumps with stalks tipped with feathery plumes. They grow much taller than humans, and they make good border plants.

What's crazy is that pampas grass can grow anywhere, from rocky soil to moist soil. So, it can survive in the pampas and in my neighbors' yards.

The only reason I don't have any is because its blades are super sharp. I've heard that they can cut you if they so much as graze you.

Post 3

@Kristee – I heard that the pampas gauchos were considered a nuisance to the rest of the country. They would kill and cook the cattle whenever they needed food, and since they just roamed the pampas instead of settling down, they did this too often.

The rest of the country wanted the cattle for leather, and the gauchos were causing the cow population to dwindle. So, they were outlaws of a sort.

I suppose that gauchos must have felt really free for a time. I mean, imagine roaming land with no consequences, never having to go home, because the entire pampas region was home.

Post 2

My cousin visited Las Pampas just outside of Buenos Aires. She said it was beautiful country.

This is where people tended their cattle long ago and came to be called “gauchos.” I think this is the equivalent of the American “cowboy.”

Post 1

It sounds like the pampas would have been best left alone. However, if you don't use the land for something, then is it really of any benefit to you?

I suppose humans could have just harvested a few plants or trees here and there and left the rest of the ecosystem on its own. Maybe this wouldn't have caused as much damage as cattle and farming have.

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