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.