Global Ecosystems, otherwise known as biomes, are large communities of vegetation and wildlife adapted to a specific climate. The important factors that determine climate are:
Latitude is a measure of the distance north or south of the equator. In the lower latitudes, the temperatures are at their highest, as they are closer to the equator. In higher latitudes, especially in the polar regions of the world, temperatures are at their lowest.
As well as temperature, the further an area is from the equator, the fewer sunlight hours and less sunlight exposure it will experience. This means that these regions receive less energy from the sun, which will affect the type of flora and fauna that grow there.
As you can see, the diversity of species is higher at the equator than at the poles.
Variations in temperature lead to different air pressures. Low-pressure areas are created when the air is hotter and therefore rises. The low air pressure leads to increased cloud and precipitation, which happens closer to the equator. This means that warm and wet biomes are found closer to the equator.
High-pressure areas are created when the air is cooler and sinks to the Earth’s surface. Areas of high pressure tend to have settled weather conditions, being dry and warm.
The Earth spins on its axis, and this spinning affects the way winds move across different regions of the planet. This creates zones where the winds either blow from the east or from the west, depending on how far they are from the equator (latitude).
In simple terms, winds usually flow from places where the air pressure is high (lots of air molecules packed closely together) to places where the air pressure is lower (air molecules are more spread out). This movement of wind helps to regulate temperatures and can influence weather patterns globally.
When the air sinks, it creates areas of high pressure which experience very warm and very dry conditions. This creates desert climates.
The world’s different biomes have distinct patterns of distribution and characteristics. The ecosystems change gradually between the equator and the poles of the Earth. You can read the sheet below for details of the biome’s characteristics.
These biomes can be largely categorised based on two factors:
Understanding this spectrum can help in visualising how life on Earth has adapted to the different environments.
The biome pyramid below explores a spectrum of different biomes arranged based on their characteristic temperature and precipitation levels.
Starting from the wet and hot biomes, which typically have diverse ecosystems such as rainforests. As we gradually move towards drier and colder habitats, the conditions become increasingly harsh, and the variety of life forms progressively decreases.
Biomes hold a great deal of importance for scientists and geographers who can study the ecosystems and their biotic components. Studying biomes helps experts draw conclusions about how animals have evolved and adapted to live in their environments. This can reveal more to us about the changing nature of our planet and its history.
Biomes play vital roles in sustaining all the life on Earth, as everything lives within a biome.
Human activity is disrupting biomes across the planet. Through the 21st century, the Amazon Rainforest, a Tropical Rainforest, lost 9% of its forest, which destroyed many ecosystems in South America.
The trees absorb massive amounts of carbon dioxide for the world, and the massive biodiverse systems of life in the forest struggled to survive as their habitat was destroyed. Humans have a responsibility to protect the biomes of the world, which all contribute to keeping the Earth functioning.