Eco Friendly World - The World's Biomes

Biomes, large regions around the world with similar ecosystems, consist of animals, vegetation, and other living things that have adapted to the specific climates and conditions of any given environment. Biomes can change, and it is believed that these changes may be due to human activities. This has prompted the scientific community to observe, alert, and assist in the conservation and preservation of the world's major biomes. The most commonly known biomes include six major natural settings, such as freshwater, marine, desert, forest, grassland, and tundra habitats. Due to human exploitation, some of these biomes face extinction. In fact, each biome has its own unique threat that may affect its diverse biotic communities with more severe implications.

Freshwater

Freshwater biomes, low-salt concentrated regions with plants and animals having adjusted to their particular habitat, consists of three major environments including ponds and lakes, streams and rivers, and various wetlands. Only freshwater species can survive in a low-salt concentrated environment of 1% lower.

Ponds and lakes usually measure between a few square meters to thousands of square kilometers. Ponds are believed to largely be remnants from the Pleistocene glaciers. Many suspect that the seasonal formation existing in lakes and ponds has limited the species' diversity. Lakes and ponds have three major zones, including the littoral, limnetic, and profundal zones. Each zone is determined by the depth and distance from the shoreline.

Streams and rivers, flowing bodies of water moving in one direction, can be discovered anywhere in nature. Streams and rivers usually start at the headwaters of springs, melting snow, and even the mouths of a water channel or ocean. An abundance of seaweeds, algae, trout and heterotrophs can be found in one of these environments.

Wetlands are bodies of stationary water that do not flow in a particular direction. These natural habitats include all living beings within the marshes. Wetlands are not exclusive freshwater ecosystems. In fact, some wetlands have high salt concentrations, which support various species of animals, including shrimp, shellfish, and sea vegetation.

Marine

Marine biomes stretch across 3/4ths of the Earth's surface, including oceans, coral reefs, and estuaries. In fact, marine algae provides much of the Earth's oxygen supply and cycles the vast amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.

Oceans are the biggest of all ecosystems, whereby extensive bodies of water cover the Earth's surface. Some say that though the ocean is not home to as many species of plant and animal life as land, it has a far greater diversity of life. Oceans have four separate zones that mirror ponds and lakes, including the intertidal, pelagic, abyssal, and benthic zones.

Other regions of marine biomes include: coral reefs and estuaries. The former consists of captivating barriers along continents, islands, and atolls. Corals can be found in warm shallow waters and have a composition consisting of algae and animal polyp. Corals obtain their nutrition through photosynthesis and plankton floating in nearby waters. Fauna around the coral reef generally includes: tropical fish, urchins, octopuses, sea stars, and invertebrates.

Estuaries (PDF) are regions where freshwater streams merge with the ocean currents. This brackish ecosystem creates different salt concentrations, which provides an environment for varying micro and macro flora, such as seaweeds, marshes, and mangrove trees. Estuaries support a variety of fauna, including worms, oysters, and crabs.

Deserts

Deserts comprise about 1/5th of the Earth's surface, and are a biome in which less than 50 centimeters of rainfall occurs annually. They are found on various continents throughout the world, including the Sahara in North Africa and various deserts located in the United States, Mexico, and Australia. A cold desert can be found in the lower basins of Utah, Nevada, and western Asia. Deserts have varying plant and animal life, typically only found within the extreme conditions offered in many global regions. Many native plants, vertebrate, and invertebrates produce the necessary nutrients needed to sustain life under harsh conditions. The soils provide an abundance of nutrients, however the plants only need water to bring them to life. Mammals are not generally found in deserts, especially since shelter and food are often limited. There are four major types of deserts, including hot and dry, semiarid, coastal, and cold.

Forest

Ancient plant life began over 420 million years ago during the Silurian Period with arthropods and other land colonizers. In fact, the first forests consisted of giant horsetails, ferns, and club mosses. Gymnosperms later evolved during the Paleozoic Period before dominating the Earth's forests during the Triassic Period. The surface of the planet radically changed during the Pleistocene Ice Ages, which allowed for the formation of the tropical forests in the Northern Hemisphere. Forests currently occupy about 1/3rd of the Earth's landmass and harbor about 2/3rd of land plants. As human populations increase, however, so does the expanse of these magnificent forests. This is mainly due to the destructive behaviors of deforestation, pollution, and industrial expansion. There are three major types of modern forests according to latitude, including tropical, temperate, and boreal.

Grassland

Grasslands consist of large plots of land that are heavily overtaken by grasses rather than shrubbery and trees. Grasslands originated during the Miocene and Pliocene Epoch periods, which spanned close to twenty five million years ago. Mountains formed in western North America, which created a favorable climate for these lush biomes. As ancient forests declined, grasslands spread in their place, especially following the Pleistocene Ice Ages, where hotter climates had dominated the globe. There are two types of grasslands, including tropical and temperate.

Tundra

The Tundra is a treeless plain, covered with frost and bitter cold temperatures, and they are the coldest biomes on the planet. The little life that thrives in a tundra does so on dead organic material. The two major sources of nutrients are nitrogen and phosphorous. The characteristics of a tundra can be described by the extreme cold, low biotic populations, minimal vegetation, poor drainage, short growing season and reproduction, nutrients pulled from dead organic materials, instead of living organisms, and large population oscillations. There are two types of tundra, including the Arctic and Alpine tundra.