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Terrestrial Biomes

Discusses tundras, forests, grasslands, chaparral, and deserts.

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Terrestrial Biomes

Forest vs. desert. What explains these differences?

If you look at these two pictures, you will see very few similarities. The picture on the left shows a desert in Africa. The picture on the right shows a rainforest in Australia. The desert doesn’t have any visible plants, whereas the rainforest is densely packed with trees. Do they have different climates? Does one get more rain than the other?

Survey of Terrestrial Biomes

Terrestrial biomes are classified by the climate and their biodiversity, especially the types of primary producers. The world map in Figure below shows where 13 major terrestrial biomes are found.

A map showing the locations of Earth's major terrestrial biomes

Worldwide Distribution of Terrestrial Biomes. This map shows the locations of Earth’s major terrestrial biomes.

The following figures summarize the basic features of major terrestrial biomes. As you read about each biome, think about how its biodiversity and types of plants and animals relate to its climate. For example, why do you think there are no amphibians or reptiles in tundra biomes? (Hint: Amphibians and reptiles cannot maintain a constant body temperature. Instead, they have about the same temperature as their surroundings.)


  • Terrestrial biomes include tundras, temperate forests and grasslands, chaparral, temperate and tropical deserts, and tropical forests and grasslands.

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Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.

  1. What controls the productivity of a biome?
  2. How are most terrestrial biomes identified?
  3. What determines the animal life that inhabits a biome?
  4. Which biome is describe by:
    1. high temperature and high humidity throughout the year.
    2. a moist-cool, transcontinental coniferous forest.
    3. an absence of trees, the presence of dwarf plants, and a ground surface that is wet, spongy, and hummocky.
    4. distinct wet and dry seasons with hot temperatures all year long.


  1. Identify two types of tundra and where they are found.
  2. What terrestrial biome has the highest biodiversity? the lowest?
  3. In which biome are you most likely to find grasses, zebras, and lions?
  4. If you were to design a well-adapted desert animal, what adaptations would you give it to help it survive in its desert biome?

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The variety of life and its processes; including the variety of living organisms, the genetic differences among them, and the communities and ecosystems in which they occur.

primary producer

Organism that produces food for itself and other organisms; autotrophs.


Average weather in an area over a long period of time.

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