So far we have considered only small scale ecosystems using an example of a pond. However, we must also consider ecosystems at a global scale. These ecosystems are known as BIOMES. A biome is a large naturally occurring community of flora (plants) and fauna (animals) occupying a major habitat. The biome is suited to the climate and locality it is placed. Biomes can be spread across continents and although they share similar characteristics, there will be differences in the species of plants and animals that live in those locations. Tropical rainforest in Africa will not be identical to tropical rainforests in Asia for example.
Temperate Deciduous forests
The biome for the UK is a temperate deciduous forest. The word temperate implies that the climate is reasonably stable with not great variation throughout the year. Deciduous forests are those that have trees with broadleaves (e.g. Oak) that are shed in the autumn months. Farming has cleared much of the forest in the UK. Deciduous forests are found in the mid-latitudes which have reasonably evenly spread rainfall throughout the year and winters that are cool but not cold. They are found in Eastern North America, Western Europe and some parts of eastern Asia. They tend to disappear in the interiors of continents as temperatures become more extreme and precipitation levels fall.
Types of ecosystem
The major ecosystems can be seen above, and an overview of their major characteristics is outlined below;
• Tropical Rainforest – This is a very hot and wet biome located on or around the Equator. These forests are well known for their Biodiversity (the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat)
• Tropical Savannah - A dry and hot area composed of mainly grassland and scattered shrubs and isolated trees, which can be found between a tropical rainforest and desert biome in Africa, Arabia and even Australia.
• Desert - This biome is very hot and also very, very dry. Found around 30°N and S of the Equator and includes famous examples such as the Sahara, the Namib and Thar deserts.
• Chaparral (Mediterranean) – evergreen trees and shrubs in Atlas) – found around the Mediterranean Sea and consists of vegetation that can survive drought conditions within the summer months. Includes aromatic shrubs and citrus fruits.
• Grassland - rolling terrain of grasses, flowers and herbs. Found mainly in the interior of Europe/Asia and North America. They have been adapted to grow grains such as wheat.
• Temperate Deciduous Forest - few extremes of climate and can be found in the eastern half of North America, and the west of Europe. It can also be found in Asia. The forest has four distinct seasons.
• Temperate Boreal Forest - Also known as the taiga, this biome is a northern coniferous (evergreen) forest. Found north of temperate deciduous forests in Canada, Europe, Asia, and the United States
• Arctic and Alpine Tundra - covers one-fifth of the land on earth. It is below freezing at night year round and the meaning of its name comes from Lappish language (Lapland) which means “land with no trees”.