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    Ecosystem, Biome & Habitat Experiments

    Ecosystems, Biomes & Habitats

    Definitions

    Habitat is the place where a particular species of animal or plant lives and grows - the environment that surrounds, influences and is utilized by a species population.

    Ecosystem, refers to a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment (habitat). Elements of an ecosystem may include flora, fauna, lower life forms, water and soil.

    Biomes are defined as "the world's major biological communities, classified according to the predominant vegetation and characterized by adaptations of organisms to that particular environment" - desert, grassland, freshwater, etc.

    The term "Ecosystem" is broader than "habitat" since it may include a few species and their habitat; "biome" is the broadest term since it can be thought as many similar ecosystems throughout the world grouped together - most of the deserts in the world can be seen as one biome, etc.

    Basics

    All living and non-living things in a given area that interact with one other, make up an ecosystem. The non-living part of an ecosystem includes water, rocks, air, light, and soil. All the different organisms that live together in an ecosystem is called a community. Each ecosystem has its own community. A terrarium community, for example, can have small animals. A desert communtiy may have cacti, small snakes, and scorpions. A pond community can have frogs, insects, snakes, and plants, and a forest community may have rabbits, foxes and pine trees. Communities are also divided into populations. A population is composed of only one type of species. A species is a group of similar organisms; for instance, all humans belong to the same species, but cas and dogs do not.

    A community works like a team. Each member of the team has its own job to do but they are all interconnected. For example, in a forest community there are different populations, such as grass, rabbits, and foxes. The rabbits eat the grass. The foxes eat the rabbits. If there were no foxes, the rabbit population would grow too quickly and there wouldn't be enough grass for all of the rabbits to eat. Then the rabbits would begin to die, and the foxes would soon die because there is nothing but grass too eat. Predators and their prey are in every community. They help to keep it balanced so that all the members can survive. Three types of team members in a community help establish balance: the Producers, the Consumers, and the Decomposers.


    In ecology, a biome is a major regional group of distinctive plant and animal communities best adapted to the region's physical natural environment, latitude, elevation, and terrain.

    A biome is made up of ecoregions or communities at stable steady state and all associated transitional, disturbed, or degraded, vegetation, fauna and soils, but can often be identified by the climax vegetation type.

    The biodiversity characteristic of each biome, especially the diversity of fauna and subdominant plant forms, is a function of abiotic factors and the biomass productivity of the dominant vegetation. Terrestrial biomes with higher net primary productivity, moisture availability, and temperature.

    A fundamental classification of biomes is into:

    • Terrestrial (tall) biomes
    • Aquatic (little) biomes.

    Biomes are often given local names. For example, a temperate grassland or shrubland biome is known commonly as steppe in central Asia, savanna or veld in southern Africa, prairie in North America, pampa in South America and outback or scrub in Australia. Sometimes an entire biome may be targeted for protection, especially under an individual nation's Biodiversity Action Plan.

    Terrestrial biomes

    Climate is a major factor determining the distribution of terrestrial biomes. Among the important climatic factors are:

    • latitude: arctic, boreal, temperate, subtropical, tropical.
    • humidity: humid, semi-humid, semi-arid, and arid.
    • seasonal variation: rainfall may be distributed evenly throughout the year, or be marked by seasonal variations.
    • dry summer, wet winter: most regions of the earth receive most of their rainfall during the summer months; Mediterranean climate regions receive their rainfall during the winter months.
    • elevation: increasing elevation causes a distribution of habitat types similar to that of increasing latitude.

    Biodiversity generally increases away from the poles towards the equator, and increases with humidity. The most widely used systems of classifying biomes correspond to latitude (or temperature zoning) and humidity.

    Udvardy system: In 1975, Miklos Udvardy published a system of biogeographic provinces that were divided into 12 terrestrial biomes.

    Bailey system: Robert G. Bailey developed a biogeographical classification system for the United States in a map published in 1975. Bailey subsequently expanded the system to include the rest of North America in 1981, and the world in 1989. The Bailey system is based on climate, and is divided into four domains (Polar, Humid Temperate, Dry, and Humid Tropical), with further divisions based on other climate characteristics (subarctic, warm temperate, hot temperate, and subtropical, marine and continental, lowland and mountain).

    WWF system: A team of biologists developed an ecological land classification system for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) that identified 14 biomes, called major habitat types, and further divided the world's land area into 867 terrestrial ecoregions. This classification is used to define the Global 200 list of ecoregions identified by the (WWF) as priorities for conservation. The WWF major habitat types are as follows:

    • Tundra (Arctic)
    • Boreal forests/taiga (subarctic, humid)
    • Temperate coniferous forests (temperate, humid to semi-humid)
    • Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests (temperate, humid)
    • Temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands (temperate, semi-arid)
    • Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and shrub (temperate warm, semi-humid to semi-arid with winter rainfall)
    • Tropical and subtropical coniferous forests (tropical and subtropical, semi-humid)
    • Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests (tropical and subtropical, humid)
    • Tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests (tropical and subtropical, semi-humid)
    • Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands (tropical and subtropical, semi-arid)
    • Montane grasslands and shrublands (alpine or montane climate)
    • Deserts and xeric shrublands (temperate to tropical, arid)
    • Mangrove (subtropical and tropical, salt water inundated)
    • Flooded grasslands and savannas (temperate to tropical, fresh or brackish water inundated)

    Aquatic biomes

    • continental shelf
    • littoral/intertidal zone
    • riparian
    • pond
    • coral reef
    • kelp forest
    • pack ice
    • hydrothermal vents
    • cold seeps
    • benthic zone
    • pelagic zone
    • neritic zone

    The Endolithic biome, consisting entirely of microscopic life in rock pores and cracks, kilometers beneath the surface, has only recently been discovered and does not fit well into most classification schemes.


    A habitat describes the place where many animals or plants of a certain kind of animals or plants live. Many different kinds of animals or plants can share the same habitat. In that case, it is called a biotope. A habitat can also be called an eco-system or a biome. An ecosystem is when there are many living and non-living things working together in one habitat. Habitat is also called a dwelling place.

    Animal habitats: Most animals live in one type of environment because they are best suited to it. We say they are adapted to this environment. It provides them with food and water. For example, animals sch as frogs, newts, and ducks have webbed feet to help them swim in the water.

    Plant habitats: Just as animals adapt to the places they live, so do plants. Plants are adapted to a wide variety of habitats. As a result, each plant has certain characteristics. Some are adapted to living on land while others live in water. Plants that grow on land usually have stiff stems to hold them upright, while water plants tend to have less rigid stems because the water supports them. Plants that live in dry climates like the desert have small or very few leaves. This cuts down on water loss through the leaves. Their stems may also be thick to store water. Plants that grow in shaded areas have large leaves to capture as much sunlight as possible.

    Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)

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