10 Facts About Land Biomes

Land biomes are the world's major land habitats. These biomes support life on the planet, influence weather patterns, and help to regulate temperature. Some biomes are characterized by extremely cold temperatures and treeless, frozen landscapes. Others are characterized by dense vegetation, seasonally warm temperatures, and abundant rainfall.

The animals and plants in a biome have adaptations that are suited for their environment. Destructive changes that occur in an ecosystem disrupt food chains and could lead to the endangerment or extinction of organisms. As such, biome conservation is vital to the preservation of plant and animal species. Did you know that it actually snows in some deserts? Discover 10 interesting facts about land biomes.

01
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Most plant and animal species are found in the rain forest biome.

Rain forest
Most plant and animal species live in the rain forest biome. John Lund/Stephanie Roeser/Blend Images/Getty Images

Rain forests are home to the majority of plant and animal species in the world. Rain forest biomes, which include temperate and tropical rain forests, can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

A rain forest is able to support such diverse plant and animal life because of its seasonally warm temperatures and abundant rainfall. The climate is well suited for the development of plants, which support life for other organisms in the rain forest. The abundant plant life provides food and shelter for the various species of rain forest animals.

02
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Rain forest plants help in the fight against cancer.

Madagascan Periwinkle
Madagascan Periwinkle, Catharanthus roseus. This plant has been used for hundreds of years as an herbal remedy and is now being used to treat cancer. John Cancalosi/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Rain forests supply 70% of the plants identified by the US National Cancer Institute as having properties that are effective against cancer cells. Several drugs and medications have been derived from tropical plants for use in the treatment of cancer. Extracts from the rosy periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus or Vinca rosea) of Madagascar have been used to successfully treat acute lymphocytic leukemia (pediatric blood cancer), non-Hodgkin's lymphomas, and other types of cancers.

03
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Not all deserts are hot.

Dellbridge Islands, Antarctica
Dellbridge Islands, Antarctica. Neil Lucas/Nature Picture Library/Getty Images

One of the biggest misconceptions about deserts is that they are all hot. The ratio of moisture gained to moisture lost, not temperature, determines whether or not an area is a desert. Some cold deserts even experience occasional snowfall. Cold deserts can be found in places like Greenland, China, and Mongolia. Antarctica is a cold desert that also happens to be the largest desert in the world.

04
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One-third of the Earth's stored carbon is found in arctic tundra soil.

Permafrost
This image shows permafrost melting in the arctic region of Svalbard, Norway. Jeff Vanuga/Corbis/Getty Images

The arctic tundra is characterized by extremely cold temperatures and land that remains frozen year-round. This frozen soil or permafrost plays an important role in the cycle of nutrients such as carbon. As temperatures rise globally, this frozen ground melts and releases stored carbon from the soil into the atmosphere. The release of carbon could impact global climate change by increasing temperatures.

05
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Taigas are the largest land biome.

Tiaga
Tiaga, Sikanni Chief British Columbia Canada. Mike Grandmaison/All Canada Photos/Getty Images

Located in the northern hemisphere and just south of the tundra, the taiga is the largest land biome. The taiga extends across North America, Europe, and Asia. Also known as the boreal forests, taigas play a significant role in the nutrient cycle of carbon by removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and using it to generate organic molecules through photosynthesis.

06
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Many plants in chaparral biomes are fire resistant.

Burn Site Regrowth
This image show wildflowers growing on a burn site. Richard Cummins/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Plants in the chaparral biome have many adaptations for life in this hot, dry region. A number of plants are fire resistant and can survive fires, which occur frequently in chaparrals.  Many of these plants produce seeds with tough coats to withstand the heat generated by fires. Others develop seeds that require high temperatures for germination or have roots that are fire resistant. Some plants, such as the chamise, even promote fires with their flammable oils in their leaves. They then grow in the ashes after the area has been burned.

07
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Desert storms can carry dust for thousands of miles.

Sandstorm
This sandstorm is fast approaching the Merzouga settlement in the Erg Chebbi Desert, Morocco. Pavliha/E+/Getty Images

Desert storms can carry mile high dust clouds over thousands of miles. In 2013, a sandstorm originating in the Gobi Desert in China traveled over 6,000 miles across the Pacific to California. According to NASA, dust traveling across the Atlantic from the Sahara desert is responsible for the bright red sunrises and sunsets seen in Miami. Strong winds that occur during dust storms easily pick up loose sand and desert soil lifting them into the atmosphere. Very small dust particles can remain in the air for weeks, traveling great distances. These dust clouds can even impact climate by blocking sunlight.

08
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Grassland biomes are home to the largest land animals.

African Bush Animals Savana
Matthew Crowley Photography/Moment/Getty Images

Grassland biomes include temperate grasslands and savannas. The fertile soil supports crops and grasses that provide food for humans and animals alike. Large grazing mammals such as elephants, bison, and rhinoceroses make their home in this biome. Temperate grassland grasses have massive root systems, which keep them entrenched in the soil and helps to prevent erosion. Grassland vegetation supports the many herbivores, large and small, in this habitat.

09
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Less than 2% of sunlight reaches the ground in tropical rain forests.

Tropical Forest Sunbeams
This image shows sunbeams shining through the jungle canopy. Elfstrom/E+/Getty Images

The vegetation in tropical rain forests is so thick that less than 2% of sunlight reaches the ground. Although rain forests typically receive 12 hours of sunlight per day, enormous trees as tall as 150 feet tall form an umbrella canopy over the forest. These trees block out the sunlight for plants in the lower canopy and forest floor. This dark, humid environment is an ideal place for fungi and other microbes to grow. These organisms are decomposers, which function to recycle nutrients from decaying vegetation and animals back into the environment.

10
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Temperate forest regions experience all four seasons.

Deciduous Forest
Deciduous Forest, Jutland, Denmark. Nick Brundle Photography/Moment/Getty Images

Temperate forests, also known as deciduous forests, experiences four distinct seasons. Other biomes don't experience distinct periods of winter, spring, summer, and fall. Plants in the temperate forest region change color and lose their leaves in fall and winter. The seasonal changes mean that animals must also adapt to changing conditions. Many animals camouflage themselves as leaves to blend in with the fallen foliage in the environment. Some animals in this biome adapt to the cold weather by hibernate during the winter or by burrowing underground. Others migrate to warmer regions during the winter months.

Sources:

  • “Desert.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed, Encyclopedia.com, www.encyclopedia.com/earth-and-environment/geology-and-oceanography/geology-and-oceanography/desert.
  • “Dust from Chinese storm reaches central California.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 31 Mar. 2013, usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/31/17541864-dust-from-chinese-storm-reaches-central-california.
  • Miller, Ron, and Ina Tegen. “Desert Dust, Dust Storms and Climate.” NASA, NASA, Apr. 1997, www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/miller_01/.
  • “National Snow and Ice Data Center.” SOTC: Permafrost and Frozen Ground | National Snow and Ice Data Center, nsidc.org/cryosphere/sotc/permafrost.html.
  • “Rainforests Facts | The Nature Conservancy.” Facts | The Nature Conservancy, www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/urgentissues/land-conservation/forests/rainforests/rainforests-facts.xml.