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This map shows the locations of the world's major land biomes. Other parts of Earth's surface are classified as mountains or ice caps. Each biome has a characteristic climate and community of organisms. Ecologists recognize at least ten different biomes. The world’s major land biomes include tropical rain forest, tropical dry forest, tropical savanna, desert, temperate grassland, temperate woodland and shrubland, temperate forest, northwestern coniferous forest, boreal forest, and tundra. Each of these biomes is defined by a unique set of abiotic factors – particularly climate – and has a characteristic ecological community. The map shows the natural geographic distribution of these major biomes. Be aware, however; that this is just one of many different systems that are used to classify biomes. The map does not take into account changes made by human activity. The boundaries between the biomes may appear to be sharp on the map. On the ground, however, there are often transitional areas between biomes. In these transitional areas, one biome's plants and animals gradually become less frequent, while the organisms characteristic of the adjacent biome become more frequent. In addition, the community structure of a particular biome will differ slightly, depending on location and elevation above sea level. For this survey, you will study an example of each major biome from a specific location and elevation. You will begin in the tropics and finish at the poles.
Tropical Rain Forest Tropical rain forests are home to more species than all other land biomes combined. large woody vines and climbing plants. and parakeets. • Abiotic factors: hot and wet year-round. In the shade below the canopy. and beetles. predators such as jaguars. monkeys. boa constrictors. Southeast Asia. thin. Organic matter that falls to the forest floor quickly decomposes and the nutrients are recycled. southern India. birds such as toucans. caymans. parts of Africa. ferns. reptiles such as frogs. and anacondas • Geographic distribution: parts of South and Central America. tapirs. nutrient-poor soils • Dominant plants: broad-leaved evergreen trees. ants. parrots. anteaters. piranhas and other freshwater fishes. The leafy tops of tall trees – extending up to 70 meters above the forest floor – form a dense covering called a canopy. and capybaras. insects such as butterflies. orchids and bromeliads • Dominant wildlife: herbivores such as sloths. and northeastern Australia 2 . a second layer of shorter trees and vines forms an understory.
• Abiotic factors: generally warm year-round. aloes and other succulents • Dominant wildlife: tigers. During the dry season.Tropical Dry Forest Tropical dry forests grow in places where rainfall is highly seasonal rather than year-round. rich soils subject to erosion • Dominant plants: tall. monkeys. insects such as termites. South and Central America. pied harrier. and tropical islands 3 . Mexico. nearly all the trees drop their leaves to conserve water. A tree that sheds its leaves during a particular season each year is called deciduous. herbivores such as elephants. deciduous trees that form a dense canopy during the wet season. reptiles such as snakes and monitor lizards • Geographic distribution: parts of Africa. Australia. Indian rhinoceros. and spot-billed pelican. hog deer. birds such as great pied hornbill. drought-tolerant orchids and bromeliads. India. alternating wet and dry seasons.
tropical savannas. birds such as eagles. hyenas. antelopes. baboons. Compact soils. herbivores such as elephants. ostriches. northern Australia 4 .Tropical Savanna Receiving more seasonal rainfall than deserts but less than tropical dry forests. compact soil. and storks. giraffes. and the action of large animals such as rhinoceros prevent some savanna areas from turning into dry forest. are characterized by a cover of grasses. weaver birds. frequent fires set by lightning • Dominant plants: tall. perennial grasses. Savannas are spotted with isolated trees and small groves of trees and shrubs. seasonal rainfall. sometimes drought-tolerant and fireresistant trees or shrubs • Dominant wildlife: predators such as lions. or grasslands. and zebras. insects such as termites • Geographic distribution: large parts of eastern Africa. cheetahs. southern Brazil. fairly frequent fires. • Abiotic factors: warm temperatures. aardvarks. and jackals. leopards.
insects such as ants. a desert biome is defined as having annual precipitation of less than 25 centimeters. and wasps. The organisms in this biome can tolerate the extreme conditions. alternating between hot and cold. pronghorn antelope. gray foxes. and bobcats. Beyond that. variable temperatures. • Abiotic factors: low precipitation. butterflies. birds such as owls. desert bighorn sheep. deserts vary greatly. Mexico. depending on elevation and latitude. rattlesnakes. United States. and lizards • Geographic distribution: Africa. Many undergo extreme temperature changes during the course of a day. beetles. herbivores such as mule deer.in fact. bats. and Australia 5 . and kangaroo rats. Asia. soils rich in minerals but poor in organic material • Dominant plants: cacti and other succulents. South America. creosote bush and other plants with short growth cycles • Dominant wildlife: predators such as mountain lions. reptiles such as tortoises. hawks. flies. the Middle East.Desert All deserts are dry –. and roadrunners.
owls. moderate. seasonal precipitation. • Abiotic factors: warm to hot summers. mountain plover. birds such as hawks. occasional fires • Dominant plants: lush. prairie chicken. North America. bobwhite. perennial grasses and herbs.historically included bison. pronghorn antelope. rabbits. and introduced cattle -. insects such as ants and grasshoppers • Geographic distribution: central Asia. temperate grasslands – such as plains and prairies – once covered vast areas of the midwestern United States. Periodic fires and heavy grazing by large herbivores maintain the characteristic plant community. and cold • Dominant wildlife: predators such as coyotes and badgers -. however.historically included wolves and grizzly bears. Since the development of the steel plow. most have been converted to agricultural fields. most are resistant to drought. Australia. cold winters. fire. prairie dogs. and upland plateaus of South America 6 . reptiles such as snakes. herbivores such as mule deer. fertile soils.Temperate Grassland Characterized by a rich mix of grasses and underlaid by some of the world's most fertile soils. central Europe.
and Australia 7 . herbivores such as blacktailed deer. leathery leaves. oily herbs that grow during winter and die in summer • Dominant wildlife: predators such as coyotes. spiders • Geographic distribution: western coasts of North and South America. low plants that contain flammable oils makes fires a constant threat. foxes. cool. butterflies. In the open woodlands. • Abiotic factors: hot. and mice. reptiles such as lizards and snakes. large areas of grasses and wildflowers such as poppies are interspersed with oak trees. warblers and other songbirds. fragrant. bobcats. thin.Temperate Woodland and Shrubland This biome is characterized by a semiarid climate and a mix of shrub communities and open woodlands. western scrub jay. The growth of dense. areas around the Mediterranean Sea. dry summers. South Africa. moist winters. California quail. Communities that are dominated by shrubs are also known as chaparral. and mountain lions. rabbits. birds such as hawks. nutrient-poor soils. periodic fires • Dominant plants: woody evergreen shrubs with small. squirrels.
or conifers. warm summers. and parts of Japan. Soils of temperate forests are often rich in humus (HYOO-mus). southeastern Canada. such as squirrels. flowering shrubs. a ground layer of mosses and ferns • Dominant wildlife: Deer. In autumn.Temperate Forest Temperate forests contain a mixture of deciduous and coniferous (koh-NIF-ur-us) trees. herbs. turkeys • Geographic distribution: eastern United States. small plants burst out of the ground and flower. produce seed-bearing cones and most have leaves shaped like needles. numerous songbirds. some conifers. These forests have cold winters that halt plant growth for several months. nut and acorn feeders. In the spring. China. black bears. bobcats. Coniferous trees. • Abiotic factors: cold to moderate winters. year-round precipitation. the deciduous trees shed their leaves. and Australia 8 . omnivores such as raccoons and skunks. most of Europe. fertile soils • Dominant plants: broadleaf deciduous trees. a material formed from decaying leaves and other organic matter that makes soil fertile.
to spruce. and hemlock farther north. bobcats." • Abiotic factors: mild temperatures. dry summer. predators such as owls. relatively cool. the northwestern coniferous forest is sometimes called a "temperate rain forest.. Sitka spruce. abundant precipitation during fall. from northern California to AlaskaBoreal Forest 9 . winter. Moss often covers tree trunks and the forest floor. rocky. Flowering trees and shrubs such as dogwood and rhododendron are also abundant. and spring. acidic soils • Dominant plants: Douglas fir. moist air from the Pacific Ocean provides abundant rainfall to this biome. along the coast of northern California. western hemlock. and members of the weasel family • Geographic distribution: Pacific coast of northwestern United States and Canada. fir. ranging from giant redwoods. redwood • Dominant wildlife: bears. beavers. The forest is made up of a variety of conifers.Northwestern Coniferous Forest Mild. Because of its lush vegetation. large herbivores such as elk and deer.
short. • Abiotic factors: long. Asia. moderate precipitation. high humidity. These biomes are called boreal forests." reflecting the fact that boreal forests occur mostly in the Northern Hemisphere. nutrient-poor soils • Dominant plants: needleleaf coniferous trees such as spruce and fir. and northern Europe 10 . some broadleaf deciduous trees. Winters are bitterly cold. beavers. small. small herbivorous mammals. mild summers. cold winters. acidic. or taiga (TY-guh).Boreal Forest Along the northern edge of the temperate zone are dense evergreen forests of coniferous trees. The word boreal comes from the Greek word for "north. moose and other large herbivores. berry-bearing shrubs • Dominant wildlife: predators like lynx and timberwolves and members of the weasel family. songbirds and migratory birds • Geographic distribution: North America. but summers are mild and long enough to allow the ground to thaw.
high winds. cold. During the short. short and soggy summers. low precipitation. shore birds. the ground thaws to a depth of a few centimeters and becomes soggy and wet. the short growing season.Tundra The tundra is characterized by permafrost. musk ox. This cycle of thawing and freezing. poorly developed soils. Cold temperatures. and caribou. migratory waterfowl. 11 . Arctic foxes. and Europe Copyright © 2002 WGBH Educational Foundation. is one reason that tundra plants are small and stunted. which rips and crushes plant roots. lemmings and other small rodents • Geographic distribution: northern North America. and short grasses • Dominant wildlife: a few resident birds and mammals that can withstand the harsh conditions. a layer of permanently frozen subsoil. and humus-poor soils also limit plant height • Abiotic factors: strong winds. In winter. cool summer. the topsoil freezes again. and dark winters. All rights reserved. permafrost • Dominant plants: ground-hugging plants such as mosses.. Original copyright © 2000 Pearson Education. Inc. sedges. long. lichens. Asia.
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