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Biosphere as a Living Place
Terrestrial Biomes

We often think of the Biosphere as primarily a Physical Place, a place to live. As a Living Place the Biosphere extends up into the atmosphere a few miles, where spores and spiderlings may be found, down into Earth's crust rock a mile or so, where some bacteria live, and all the way down to the ocean floor, beneath the crushing weight of miles of water. Life exists in boiling water, and even in coolant water in nuclear reactors. Life is incredibly tough, tenacious and above all, inventive. Life finds ways to live in every conceivable place.

We tend to think of Earth as a kind of stage where living organisms play out their lives, but this is not so. In fact, life plays a major role in creating the conditions that favor it. The players help create the stage. In other words, over time, Life shapes the planet while the planet shapes Life. To explore see Biosphere as Process. See Adaptation.

Below are images of Terrestrial Biomes. A biome is a kind of place to live, one type of ecosystem within the Biosphere. Each biome is unique, but to help us see the effects of rainfall, climate, and soil types around the Earth, we use biome names as typical of places such as grasslands and deserts, where in response to similar pressures, plant and animal types have evolved to be similar. Temperate grasslands and shrub-lands are called steppes in cental Asia, veldt in South Africa, prairies in North America, even though they are somewhat similar biomes.

The continents of Earth as a whole can be mapped by biome kind, as a rough guide:

But notice what happens when you zoom in on one continent. It's still a rough guide, but does suggest the true complexity of the places life thrives.

Mind-Experiment, Biome-Play

Below are images of various biomes. For each picture, imagine you were a creature that lived there, that was adapted to live well there. Assume you were six inches long. What would you eat? Would you be fast? How would you move? Where would you sleep? What might you fear?





kelp forest, New Zealand pine mountains, New Mexico
alpine meadow, Washington
taiga lake, Minnesota
high desert, Utah
coral reef, Fiji
marsh, Minnesota
sand dunes, Mongolia
mangrove tidewaters, Australia
South Georgia island, shore
high desert sagebrush, New Mexico
rainforest, Borneo
low tundra plants, hurrying through a short growing season, Canada

tundra reindeer lichen
with sphagnum moss, Alaska


Explore Further in Biosphere

Biosphere: Introduction
Biosphere as Place: Introduction
Biosphere as Ocean: Life Zones
Biosphere as Ocean Floor: Benthic Biomes One
Biosphere as Ocean Floor: Benthic Biomes Two
Biosphere on Land: Terrestrial Biomes
      Biosphere on Land: Biological Soil Crusts
Biosphere on Land: Anthropogenic Biomes
Biosphere as Process: Introduction
Biosphere Process: Floating Continents, Tectonic Plates
Biosphere Process: Photosynthesis
Biosphere Process: Life Helps Make Earth's Crust
Biosphere Process:
Rock Cycle--Marriage of Water and Rock
Biosphere Process: Marriage of Wind and Water
Biosphere Process: Gas Exchange
Biosphere as An Expression of Spirit
The Ecological Function of Art
The Earth Goddess
The Tree of Life
The Green Man
Earth Art
Biosphere as Community
Biosphere Microcosm: Bacteria and Archaea
The Procaryote Domain
Biosphere Microcosm: Germs
Biosphere Community: The Eucaryote Domain
Biosphere Community: Protists 1: Algae
  Biosphere Community: Protists 2: Protozoa
Biosphere Community: Plants: What's New?
Biosphere Community: Plant Diversity--Major Groups
Biosphere Community: Plant Defense
Biosphere Community: Plant Pollination
Biosphere Community: Plant Seed Dispersal
Biosphere Community: Kingdom Animals
Biosphere Community: Kingdom Fungi
Biosphere Community: Six Great Extinctions
Return to Ecology Index

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