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Terrestrial Biomes

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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.

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.

Practice I

Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.

  1. How many major terrestrial biomes exist?
  2. How are biomes distributed?
  3. Describe the polar biomes.
  4. Describe the arctic and alpine tundra.
  5. Compare temperate deciduous forests to temperate grasslands.
  6. Describe the chaparral and the desert.
  7. Define the savannah and the tropical forest.

Practice II


1. Identify two types of tundra and where they are found.

2. In which biome are you most likely to find grasses, zebras, and lions?

3. If you were to design a well-adapted desert animal, what adaptations would you give it to help it survive in its desert biome?

4. Explain the relationship between biodiversity and climate in terrestrial biomes.

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