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Biosphere as a Living Place
Terrestrial Biomes

We often think of the Biosphere as primarily a Physical Place, a place to live. As a Living Place the Biosphere extends up into the atmosphere a few miles, where spores and spiderlings may be found, down into Earth's crust rock a mile or so, where some bacteria live, and all the way down to the ocean floor, beneath the crushing weight of miles of water. Life exists in boiling water, and even in coolant water in nuclear reactors. Life is incredibly tough, tenacious and above all, inventive. Life finds ways to live in every conceivable place.

We tend to think of Earth as a kind of stage where living organisms play out their lives, but this is not so. In fact, life plays a major role in creating the conditions that favor it. The players help create the stage. In other words, over time, Life shapes the planet while the planet shapes Life. To explore see Biosphere as Process. See Adaptation.

Below are images of Terrestrial Biomes. A biome is a kind of place to live, one type of ecosystem within the Biosphere. Each biome is unique, but to help us see the effects of rainfall, climate, and soil types around the Earth, we use biome names as typical of places such as grasslands and deserts, where in response to similar pressures, plant and animal types have evolved to be similar. Temperate grasslands and shrub-lands are called steppes in cental Asia, veldt in South Africa, prairies in North America, even though they are somewhat similar biomes.

The continents of Earth as a whole can be mapped by biome kind, as a rough guide:

But notice what happens when you zoom in on one continent. It's still a rough guide, but does suggest the true complexity of the places life thrives.

Mind-Experiment, Biome-Play

Below are images of various biomes. For each picture, imagine you were a creature that lived there, that was adapted to live well there. Assume you were six inches long. What would you eat? Would you be fast? How would you move? Where would you sleep? What might you fear?

 

 

 

 

kelp forest, New Zealand pine mountains, New Mexico
alpine meadow, Washington
taiga lake, Minnesota
high desert, Utah
coral reef, Fiji
marsh, Minnesota
sand dunes, Mongolia
mangrove tidewaters, Australia
South Georgia island, shore
   
high desert sagebrush, New Mexico
rainforest, Borneo
low tundra plants, hurrying through a short growing season, Canada

tundra reindeer lichen
with sphagnum moss, Alaska

 

Explore Further in Biosphere

 
Biosphere: Introduction
 
Biosphere as Place: Introduction
 
Biosphere as Ocean: Life Zones
 
Biosphere as Ocean Floor: Benthic Biomes One
 
Biosphere as Ocean Floor: Benthic Biomes Two
 
Biosphere on Land: Terrestrial Biomes
      Biosphere on Land: Biological Soil Crusts
 
Biosphere on Land: Anthropogenic Biomes
 
Biosphere as Process: Introduction
 
Biosphere Process: Floating Continents, Tectonic Plates
 
Biosphere Process: Photosynthesis
 
Biosphere Process: Life Helps Make Earth's Crust
 
Biosphere Process:
Rock Cycle--Marriage of Water and Rock
 
Biosphere Process: Marriage of Wind and Water
   
Biosphere Process: Gas Exchange
 
Biosphere as An Expression of Spirit
 
The Ecological Function of Art
 
The Earth Goddess
 
The Tree of Life
 
The Green Man
 
Earth Art
 
Biosphere as Community
 
Biosphere Microcosm: Bacteria and Archaea
The Procaryote Domain
 
Biosphere Microcosm: Germs
 
Biosphere Community: The Eucaryote Domain
 
Biosphere Community: Protists 1: Algae
 
  Biosphere Community: Protists 2: Protozoa
 
Biosphere Community: Plants: What's New?
 
Biosphere Community: Plant Diversity--Major Groups
 
Biosphere Community: Plant Defense
 
Biosphere Community: Plant Pollination
   
Biosphere Community: Plant Seed Dispersal
 
Biosphere Community: Kingdom Animals
 
Biosphere Community: Kingdom Fungi
 
Biosphere Community: Six Great Extinctions
 
Return to Ecology Index

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