Climate and Biomes
Part A: Introduction to Biomes
Biomes are both climatically and geographically defined. Biomes are regions of Earth that have similar climates and other abiotic abiotic: physical factors or conditions that influence plant and animal life. (non-living) factors such as elevation, humidity, and soil type. No matter where they occur on the planet, biomes have similar types of vegetation and animal life, or ecological communities. In this lab, you will study the major types of terrestrial (land) biomes around the world and present one biome type to your classmates. You will also become familiar with a simple way to organize biomes by precipitation and temperature.
Biomes and climate patterns
Begin this lab by connecting biomes biomes: communities of plants and animals that are defined geographically and climatically. with climate patterns. Examine the interactive rollover map shown below and look for climate and biome patterns. While investigating the map, rollover the titles in the legend to to select regions, or groups of regions, one at a time. Look for patterns such as:
- Do certain zones appear along coasts?
- Are they in the interior of a continent?
- Are they located north or south of the equator?
Use the map and legend to answer these questions and Checking In questions below the map.
Map Source: Produced by the COMET Program, UCAR. Used with Permission.
- In what general latitude bands, or sections of the map, are the deserts located?
Generally the deserts are in the areas around just north and south of the equator. For example, there are significant deserts in Australia and Africa.
- Where are the moist tropical climates located; do they seem to have a particular region within which they occur?
They are more common in South America and Africa. Like the deserts, tropical climates form a band around the Earth. They are often found next to deserts.
- Where do you find the severe winter (extremely cold) climates?
They are located in the northern hemisphere, just south of the Polar regions. Both Canada and Russia have large regions that are cold and severe.
- What climate zone do you live in? Where else does it occur?
Answers will vary.
- What other observations can you make about geographic climate distribution?
Answers will vary.
Be sure to check out each of the following climate zones types on the map above. Relate them to the biome types, listed in parenthesis, below. (Note that some biome types exist in more than one climate zone. The alternatives are indicated by the parenthesis.)
- Tropical Rainforest (Monsoon)
- Arid Desert
- Semi-arid desert (Savanna, Tropical Grassland)
- Humid Sub-tropical (Temperate Forest)
- Highland (Prairie, Steppe, Temperate Grassland)
- Mediterranean (Chaparral, Shrubland)
- Polar Tundra
- Polar Ice Cap
- Moist with Severe Winter, Sub Polar (Taiga, Boreal Forest)
- Humid Continental (Coniferous Forest)
Become a biome expertNow that you have an overview of the locations of the world's biomes, become an expert on one type of biome. Choose one type of biome from the list above. Research the detailed characteristics of the biome using the links below. As you are researching, locate the following information about your biome. Use the information to prepare a short (3-minute) report, video, or informational poster to share with the class.
- Temperature: average (annual) and range
- Precipitation: average (annual) and range
- Vegetation type
- Typical animals found in the biome
- Climatograph of region
- Geographic location of biome, give an example of a city, county, or state in the biome
- Image of biome type
Biome Reference Links
Stop and ThinkPrepare a chart on which you will record your data for your presentation. Then, as you observe your classmates presentations, take notes to complete the chart. Sample Biome Worksheet (Acrobat (PDF) 35kB Oct2 11) in PDF. (right-click or ctrl-click (Mac) to download the file to your desktop or documents folder)
Characterize biomes by temperature and precipitation
Stop and Think
- Determine your home biome using the maps, graphics, and other resources listed here. List the name of the biome that you live in and then, using the Whittaker diagram, give the range of average annual temperature and precipitation that you would expect to find in your biome.
- Given a temperature and rainfall can you predict which biome type will be found? Use the graphic above, which characterizes biomes by climate patterns. Here are several examples to try:
Average Annual Temperature: 15˚C / Average Annual Precipitation: 100 cm
Average Annual Temperature: -10˚C / Average Annual Precipitation: 50 cm
DiscussMaps and graphics help to organize biome and climate characteristics, allowing us to see patterns in data. Using the Whittaker diagram, above, choose one biome and predict what you think would happen if:
- Average temperature increased 5˚ C
- Average precipitation decreased, or increased, 25 cm per year
In the next lesson, you will put the biomes on a Google Earth globe and compare their general locations with observed temperature and precipitation data. As you are viewing the globe, keep in mind the ideas that you generated in this discussion.