I can understand places like a desert where it's too dry or tundra where it's too cold, but why are there places like meadows or fields in the middle of the forest where trees don't grow? Or even large areas like prairies?

  • $\begingroup$ one reason is grazing animals,they eat the young bushes if you remove the animals the bushes will grow and soon cover the area,sheep is often used to avoid the overgrowth in many areas but wildlife will do this too. $\endgroup$ Nov 7 '18 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ Above the "tree line" in mountains. $\endgroup$ Nov 7 '18 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ Tundra is a desert $\endgroup$
    – nmtoken
    Nov 17 '18 at 19:27

A non-conclusive list:

  • frequent wildfires
  • not enough water
  • too much water
  • bad soil conditions
  • average temperatures too high or low
  • not enough sunlight
  • animals
  • human intervention
  • other vegetation is better adapted to local conditions and thus suppress growing trees
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ You could also add, insufficient depth of soil & expand bad soil conditions to include hydrophobic soil, insufficient nutrients, including trace elements, presence of toxic chemicals/minerals, acid or alkaline soil $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Nov 7 '18 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ I naively figured "regularity of extreme winds" too... that's certainly how the Plains were typically presented as a child. But now you've got me wondering if that was/is a misconception. It's not like average winds are really a giant amount higher in the Plains.... yeah, they do see more periods of great wind, plus severe weather... but the speed with which trees grows in other parts of the country seems to suggest that that might just be a tenuous/errant reasoning. $\endgroup$ Nov 7 '18 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ High average wind speeds may lead to stunted, lower growth, but unlikely to no trees at all (e.g. trees at the North Sea coast view.stern.de/de/rubriken/natur/…). The main problem with the Great Plains might be low precipitation, wildfires and a rather harsh climate (at least in the north). Plus - back in the day - roaming buffalos by the million. High wind speeds though may blow away all the soil, thus preventing plants from growing. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Nov 8 '18 at 8:24

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