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Describes biomes and how they are classified.

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What are Biomes?

Where was this picture taken?

This scene is from Anza-Borrago California Desert Park. However, deserts exist around the globe. You might find a similar picture of a desert in Africa. The desert is one type of biome.

What are Biomes?

Tropical rainforests and deserts are two familiar types of biomes. A biome is an area with similar populations of organisms. This can easily be seen with a community of plants and animals. Remember that a community is all of the populations of different species that live in the same area and interact with one another. Different biomes, such as a forest (Figure below) or a desert, obviously have different communities of plants and animals. How are the plants and animals different in the rainforest than those in the desert? Why do you think they are so different?

The differences in the biomes are due to differences in the abiotic factors, especially climate. Climate is the typical weather in an area over a long period of time. The climate includes the amount of rainfall and the average temperature in the region. Obviously, the climate in the desert is much different than the climate in the rainforest. As a result, different types of plants and animals live in each biome.

This tropical rainforest has different plants than those found in a desert

Tropical rainforest landscape in Hawaii. Notice how the plants are different from those in the desert.

There are into two major groups of biomes:

  1. Terrestrial biomes, which are land-based, such as deserts and forests.
  2. Aquatic biomes, which are water-based, such as ponds and lakes.

The abiotic factors, such as the amount of rainfall and the temperature, are going to influence other abiotic factors, such as the quality of the soil. This, in turn, is going to influence the plants that migrate into the ecosystem and thrive in that biome. Recall that migration is the movement of an organism into or out of a population. It can also refer to a whole new species moving into a habitat. The type of plants that live in a biome are going to attract a certain type of animal to that habitat. It is the interaction of the abiotic and biotic factors that describe a biome and ecosystem. In aquatic biomes, abiotic factors such as salt, sunlight and temperature play significant roles.

For example, a hot dry biome is going to be completely different from a moderate wet biome. The soil quality will be different. Together, these will result in different plants being able to occupy each biome. Different plants will attract different animals (herbivores) to eat these plants. These animals, in turn, will attract different (carnivores) animals to eat the herbivores. So it is the abiotic factors that determine the biotic factors of an ecosystem, and together these define the biome.


  • A biome is an area with similar climate that includes similar communities of plants and animals.
  • Climate influences the types of plants and animals that inhabit a specific biome.

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Use the resources below to answer the questions that follow.

  1. Where do tundra biomes primarily occur? How much precipitation do these areas see annually?
  2. What areas are best known for having Taiga biomes? What is the temperature range this biome experiences?
  3. What is a behavioral adaptation that animals in desert biomes display?
  4. List three characteristics of the rainforest.
  5. How do the animals of a grassland adapt? Give two examples of animals of the grassland.


  1. What is a biome?
  2. What causes differences in the biomes?
  3. Give two examples of terrestrial biomes.
  4. What influence does the soil quality have on a biome?

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abiotic factor Nonliving aspect of the environment.
aquatic biome Biome that is based in the water, such as ponds, lakes, streams, or oceans.
biome Area with similar climate that includes similar communities of plants and animals.
biotic factor Living aspects of the environment.
climate Typical weather in an area over a long period of time.
habitat Ecological or environmental area in which a particular species live.
migration Movement of individual organisms into, or out of, a population.
terrestrial biome Biome that is based on land, such as a desert or rainforest.

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