But the fertile soil is also good for people, and in Europe most of the deciduous forest has been destroyed to make room for farms and homes. In the U. A desert is an area where little or no life exists because of a lack of water. Scientists estimate that about one-fifth of the earth's land surface is desert. Deserts can be found on every continent except Europe. There are two different kinds: hot and dry such as the Arabian and Sahara deserts and cold and dry such as Antarctica and the Gobi desert.
All but the Great Basin are hot deserts located in Mexico and the southwestern part of the United States. The lack of water and intense heat or cold make this biome inhospitable to most life forms. Most of the plants you'll see in the desert are species of cactus. You might come across yucca, aloe, octillo plants, or the tall saguaro cacti. A few animals—mainly reptiles, like snakes and lizards, and amphibians, like frogs and toads—are well adapted to the hot desert.
Another famous desert animal is the camel, which can make water from the fat it stores in its hump.
Grasslands are places with hot, dry climates that are perfect for growing food. They are known throughout the world by different names. In South Africa, grasslands are called the veld.
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Hot, tropical grasslands called savannas are found in South America and Africa. In Eurasia, temperate zone grasslands are called steppes ; in South America, pampas. This inland biome is made of vast areas of grassy field.
It receives so little rain that very few trees can grow. The U. There is little variety of animal life. Some original prairie animals like the wolf and bison have come close to being eliminated from the habitat by hunters. Today, some of the most common grassland animals include the prairie dog and the mule deer in North America, the giraffe and the zebra in Africa, and the lion in Africa and Asia. Mountains exist on all the continents of the earth. Many of the world's mountains lie in two great belts.
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The other major belt, called the Alpine-Himalayan, or Tethyan, system, stretches from the Pyrenees in Spain and France through the Alps and on to the Himalayas before ending in Indonesia. Mountains are usually found in groups called chains or ranges, although some stand alone. A mountain biome is very cold and windy.
Boreal Forests – Taiga
The higher the mountain, the colder and windier the environment. There is also less oxygen at high elevations. The animals of this biome have adapted to the cold, the lack of oxygen, and the rugged landscape. They include the mountain goat, ibex wild goat , sheep, mountain lion, puma, and yak. All of them are excellent climbers, which means they can move freely in the steep, rocky landscape.
Types of plants vary depending on geographic location and altitude. Lower elevations are commonly covered by forests, while very high elevations are usually treeless. They are often found along the equator.
Almost half of the world's tropical rainforests are in the South American country Brazil. There are other types of rainforests around the world, too. Tropical rainforests receive at least 70 inches of rain each year and have more species of plants and animals than any other biome. Many of the plants used in medicine can only be found in tropical rainforests. The combination of heat and moisture makes this biome the perfect environment for more than 15 million plants and animals.
The thick vegetation absorbs moisture, which then evaporates and completes the cycle by falling again as rain. A rainforest grows in three levels. The canopy, or tallest level, has trees between and feet tall. They block most of the sunlight from the levels below. The second level, or understory, contains a mix of small trees, vines, and palms as well as shrubs and ferns.
The third and lowest level is the forest floor, where herbs, mosses, and fungi grow. Rainforests are an endangered biome.
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People have cut the trees and sold the wood for firewood, building materials, and paper. Tropical Rainforests: Receive constant rain throughout the year, which makes these areas usually located at the equator lush with tropical plants, trees, rivers, streams and rich, fertile soil. Most of the trees in the tropical rainforest keep their leaves, and scientists still discover new plants and animal species within this ecological community. Temperate Forests: These forests have four distinct seasons — as compared with the tropical rainforest — with many evergreen and deciduous trees, which are trees that shed their leaves in the fall and winter.
Cold winters and warm summers support a variety of bird and animal life including bears that hibernate during the winter months, deer, elk, squirrels, foxes, wolves, coyotes and other small mammals. Taiga : These ecological communities represent some of the oldest forests in the world. They're also called boreal forests. As the largest of the seven land biomes, taiga consists mostly of conifers like fir, pine and cedar with needle-shaped leaves that stay green most of the year.
Long, cold winters force migratory birds south and mammals to develop thick, white coats in the winter.
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Deserts: The desert biome is best known for its hot, dry summers and cold winters. Most deserts receive little rainfall, and some of the plants evolved to retain water to thrive. Cacti developed spines to protect their fleshy hulls that store water for those arid months. Snakes, lizards and other cold-blooded reptiles winter underground only to come out when the weather turns warm. Grasslands: Represent the great prairies or plains dominated by grasses, treeless plains and large herds of grazing animals like buffalo, bison or deer in the United States. Enough rain falls to keep grasses and herbs growing, but dry summers and fires keep trees from taking hold.
Savanna: Unlike grasslands, savannas receive enough rain to support trees in groups or dotted throughout the environment. Grazing herd animals have long legs to run away from the many predators that thrive in the large, flat plains like lions, hyenas and cheetahs. Tundra: Large swaths of land marked by flat, cold plains support low grasses, plants and green moss in the summer.
Much of the tundra includes permafrost — frozen ground — just beneath the ground's surface. Mice and other small creatures go underground during winter freezes. Scientists classify biomes by four major aspects: the climate, soil, vegetation and the living organisms that populate the ecological community. The climate and soil determine the type of plants that can thrive in the community and the biological organisms it can sustain.
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A desert biome, for example, supports a whole different ecological community than that found in a tropical rainforest.