Biomes of Earth
Created | Updated Mar 6, 2011
The different biomes of planet Earth are very interesting places, especially since we happen to live in them. There are six main biomes. The definition of a biome is a large group of ecosystems that share the same type of climax community. In other words, in each biome the climate is relatively the same and the area doesn't change rapidly all the time (which is basically the definition of a climax community). Some biomes are growing, whereas some are shrinking at alarming rates.
The fastest growing biome is the desert. The temperature averages from -5 to 30°C (23 - 86°F). Deserts get very little rain per year, as little as 0 to 70cm/year. Deserts have the least biodiversity, which basically means that there is just no variety in creepy crawly things there. Deserts get very hot during the day and very cold at night, since there usually isn't much cloud cover to hold in the heat built up during the day. Unfortunately, it is the fastest growing biome, which is bad news. The desert is not always the ideal place to live, for any organism. It is hot, has hardly any water, and houses some rather nasty creatures, which have to be nasty to be able to survive there. How would you like to wake up with a scorpion in your bed? And how would you like to have to have water imported from happy-sounding places like... Wet Springs (yes this will sound happy if you have no water). The desert with the least precipitation (rain/snow/hail) is in Atacama, Chile. Some plants that live in the desert are tumbleweed, cacti, creosate, and mesquite. Not very many things live here, so the plants must find special means to hold water. Cacti are waxy, which retains water, and have needles instead of leaves so that no water can escape, whereas in leaves, water comes in and out. Some animals that can live there are owls, kangaroo rats, tortoises, sidewinders, and roadrunners. Many desert animals only come out at night, so that they don't have to put up with the heat in the daytime. In other words, nothing really enjoys living there, except maybe the rather nasty creatures.
Tropical Rain Forests
Tropical rain forests are the exact opposites of deserts. Tropical rain forests have temperatures averaging from 18 to 30°C (64.4 - 86°F). Each year, tropical rain forests receive between 250 and 450cm (or even more) of precipitation. Tropical rain forests have the greatest biodiversity, meaning lots of poisonous things live there, so if you were to get bitten or stung by one, you should be glad to know that there has to be something worse out there in that jungle that could have hurt you. Also, tropical rain forests are the fastest declining biome. This is bad. More than three million different species of insects live there, and more than 500 different species of trees are in each hectare (10,000m2 or 2.5 acres). If the rain forests are all destroyed, the Earth will lose its major source of oxygen and more than half of its species in existence. Some plants that reside in the rain forest are the orchid, the mahogany tree, the rubber tree, and lots of different kinds of ferns. Of course, there are many, many, many more plants, but that would be a boring and endless entry just writing all the plants that live in the rain forests. Different animals that live there are the extremely poisonous arrow frog, the boa constrictor, and the anaconda. Once again, there are many many more that live there, probably many of which are poisonous.
Temperate Deciduous Forest
The temperate deciduous forest is probably a nice place to live. The average temperatures there range from 0 to 20°C (32 - 68°F). One example of this would be part of the north-eastern United States. States such as Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, lower New York, etc, are part of this biome. The temperate deciduous forest is called that because most of the trees are deciduous, meaning their leaves fall off in the autumn. Examples of deciduous trees are oak, cherry, maple, hickory, walnut, and ash. They turn brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow in the autumn, and then the leaves just gently and gracefully float down from their former branches. As beautiful as this occurrence is, it causes rake and leaf blower sales at department stores to soar and people to become obsessed with getting every last leaf off their lawn. This may be due to the fact that if they don't, their beautiful lawn would soon be covered by mushy brown goo commonly referred to as 'leaf litter'. Some of the animals who reside in the deciduous forest are deer, grouse, rabbits, grey squirrels, and chipmunks. Notice these are the cute fuzzy animals featured in happy movies. Maybe that's just Hollywood's way of expressing their wishes to relocate somewhere nicer, which would create hundreds of jobs for people who enjoy leaf removal in the autumn.
This is the largest terrestrial biome, meaning the biggest on land, not water. The temperature averages from -7 to 20°C (19.4 - 68°F). Precipitation per year usually stays around 125cm and this biome has a big dry season. Grasslands usually get pretty dry in their dry seasons, creating dust storms. In the United States, the grassland is in the mid-west and is referred to as the 'Breadbasket' because it provides the nation with many important grains for making bread. The plants in grassland consist of rye, wheat, oats, barley, corn, clover, alph-alpha, and timothy. There usually aren't trees there. Some animals in the grasslands are prairie dogs (which are extremely cute but know how to tell you off in doggie lingo) and bison (which have big bushy fronts but appear to have shaved butts from a distance). Another very major area of grassland is the African savannah. Many different types of tall grasses grow there, and many endangered animals live there. These animals include the giraffe, lion, rhinoceros, elephant, and zebra to name a few. There are many programmes out there to prevent the poaching of these majestic creatures, but in some cases it may be too little too late. For more information on some of the programmes out there to save endangered species, read (if you already haven't) Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine. This book addresses the rapidly-declining amount of time that some endangered animals have on this planet and what some very dedicated people are trying to do about that. Anyhow, back to the subject...
The taiga is also referred to as the northern coniferous, because of the evergreen plants that make up most of the plant-life there. The temperature there ranges from -7 to 7°C (19.4 - 44.6°F). The soil is very acidic and low in nutrients. An example of this biome would be in Canada, but many parts of Russia also share this biome. There are a lot of evergreen trees, such as fir, spruce, hemlock, pine, and cedar. Parts of Canada also grow maple trees to produce maple syrup, a sickeningly sweet substance used to put on pancakes. Some people love this, but others find it nauseating. Maple syrup is made in little shacks known as 'Sugar Shacks' where they work for days on end to make it. It is to be noted that the maple is a deciduous tree and doesn't grow in most of the taiga except for the lower portions. Some animals that exist there are moose, lynxes, snowshoe hares, black squirrels, and black bears. All of these animals have lots and lots of fur, because it gets very cold there in the winter.
This is the cold one. Tundras are located at very high elevations and are near the poles. The temperatures there average from -4 to -14°C (24.8 - 6.8°F). There is, however, a short growing season of 6 to 10 weeks where the temperatures do get above freezing. The precipitation is usually frozen in the tundra. It averages 10 to 100cm/year. This creates compacted ice since it just sits there all year long, and this ice forms glaciers. This is where most of the world's freshwater is stored. The ground that is always frozen there is referred to as permafrost. This is the treeless biome. The ecosystem there is very fragile, and things like oil spills can be very disastrous for the animals and plants that are able to survive there. Some types of plants that can take the cold are dwarf shrubs, reindeer moss, and cushion plants. Some animals there are lemmings, snowy owls, Arctic foxes, and polar bears. These animals are usually white, to match the snow, and have very thick layers of fur. Not much can live in the tundra, due to its harsh climate. During the winter, the days are always dark, and in the summer, the days are always light. But it's always really, really cold.
To Wrap up
The different biomes of the Earth play an important role. Even if some are virtually uninhabitable, they can help greatly. If the tundra didn't hold up all the water in the glaciers, all of the continents would be flooded, which surely would upset a few people. The conservation of these different environments is crucial, and everyone should try everything they can to help keep them in existence. The main worry now should be the rain forests, but if they are conserved, another biome would become the declining one, so all of them must be kept up to make life on Earth as enjoyable as can be.