Ecosystems

sj2.jpgBiomes are major regional ecosystems or habitats, discernible at the global level, which can be best defined as groups of distinctive plant and animal communities that are well adapted to their distinctive physical (soil, water, and air) and climatic environment. Regardless of size, these communities of living organisms are intricately linked together by nutrient and energy flows, and function as an ecological unit.

Restoration case studies, literature (books, articles and papers), links to experts and organizations can be found listed according to each individual biome: tundra, taiga, temperate forest, Mediterranean, tropical forest, grassland, desert/arid land, freshwater, and coastal/marine.

WEBSITES

NASA Terra Satellite
New NASA land cover maps are providing scientists with the most refined global picture ever produced of the distribution of Earth’s ecosystems and land use patterns. High-quality land cover maps aid scientists and policy makers involved in natural resource management and a range of research and global monitoring objectives.

NASA Mission: Biomes
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a different part of the world? What would the weather be like? What kinds of animals would you see? Which plants live there? By investigating these questions, you are learning about biomes. A biome is a community of plants and animals living together in a certain kind of climate. Scientists have classified regions of the world into different biomes.

University of California Museum of Paleontology
Biomes are defined as “the world’s major communities, classified according to the predominant vegetation and characterized by adaptations of organisms to that particular environment”. The importance of biomes cannot be overestimated. Biomes have changed and moved many times during the history of life on Earth. More recently, human activities have drastically altered these communities. Thus, conservation and preservation of biomes should be a major concern to all.

University of Wisconsin (Stevens Point) Biogeography of the Earth
The distribution of biotic systems is related to the variation in climate, soils, and topography on Earth. Over eons of time, plants and animals have occupied and adapted to the particular environmental conditions in which they live. The giant saguaro cactus stores water in fleshy stems to nourish itself in the hot desert, while the heavy, shaggy coat of the musk oxen helps protect it from the cold arctic wind.

Missouri Botanical Garden: What’s It Like Where You Live?
A colorful all-ages educational website describing the important functions and services of biomes, ecosystems and habitats in our biosphere.

PUBLICATIONS

Susan L. Woodward’s Biomes of the Earth: Terrestrial, Aquatic and Human-Dominated provides an excellent introduction to biomes and major regional ecosystems.

Dennis Paulson at the University of Puget Sound has published Biomes of the World: Rationale for Hierarchical Organization of the World’s Environments.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Review of Existing Global Ecological Zoning Systems is a good overview of various classification systems being used today.

ECOREGIONS

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has identified over 850 terrestrial ecoregions and a set of 500 freshwater ecoregions is currently under development. The National Geographic Society has published an Interactive Map of these ecoregions with zoom and search features.

Miklos Udvardy (IUCN) defines 8 biogeographical realms or ecozones with the unifying features of geography, flora and fauna. These are being now being used by the WWF Global Ecoregions and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The University of Arizona, in memory of E.V. Antevs, has posted Great Color Photographs of the different biomes with information and links.

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