Types of country in the savannas

The many and varied types of savanna country reflect both the amount of annual rainfall and types of soil. Variation in these two key factors determines both the dominant trees of a savanna and the associated combination of grasses (the pasture types) in the understorey.

The savanna types have been mapped extensively, for example the Land System Maps of the 1950s and 1960s, and the maps of the different pasture types. Recently, a generalised vegetation map of northern Australia has been produced (below).


The savannas range from open forest in the coastal and sub-coastal regions to woodlands in the semi-arid regions to open woodlands with scattered low trees in the arid interior. Treeless grasslands occur on heavier soils and where drainage is impeded. Most ecosystems in northern Australia are grassy landscapes.

Notable exceptions are the rainforests (the Wet Tropics in north Queensland and the monsoon forests and vine thickets of Queensland, Top End and Kimberley), some of the wetland ecosystems and the most rugged and rocky landscapes of the Kimberley and western Arnhem Land where the vegetation is sparse scrub or heath.

These environments make an important contribution to both plant and animal biodiversity of northern Australia, and the health and management of these landscapes cannot be readily disentangled from that of the surrounding savanna.