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World biomes

Oak and beech woodlandOak and beech woodlandA biome, or vegetation zone, includes all areas where the vegetation and animal life are broadly similar. Biomes are shaped by climate, together with the local rocks and soil type. For example, tropical rainforests grow where the climate is hot and wet throughout the year. Each biome consists of a range of habitats. A temperate woodland biome, for example, may be made up of oak, beech or maple habitats. There are several large-scale types of biome on Earth.

A map of large-scale world biomesA map of large-scale world biomes
Tundra in SiberiaTundra in Siberia

Large-scale biomes

Each biome is the product of the climate, rocks and soil of the region. The far north and far south of the Earth, covered with snow and ice for most of the year, are polar biomes.

Just south of the northern polar lands is the tundra biome. It is too cold for trees, but the upper soil thaws during the brief summer and small plants like mosses and sedges grow. 

The boreal forest, or taiga, is slightly less cold. Conifer trees can grow in summer and also withstand the heavy snows of winter. Around the world cold, highland regions form the similar mountain biome.

Amazon rainforestAmazon rainforestIn temperate woodland, the summer is longer and warmer. Broadleaved trees thrive, although they lose their leaves in winter. Tropical forests grow near the Equator where the climate is hot and wet through the year. Where it is drier, savanna grasslands grow, and even less rain produces the desert biome.

Streams, rivers and lakes make up local freshwater biomes, while swamps and marshes form wetlands. The coastal biome is the narrow strip between land and sea.

By far the largest biome is the oceans. Most, but not all, ocean life lives on or near the seabed in shallow waters.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has identified 14 biomes. These are subdivided into 867 terrestrial ecoregions. Examples of terrestrial ecoregions include the Biak-Numfoor rainforests, the Buru rainforests and the Banda Sea Islands moist deciduous forests—areas of the tropical rainforest biome found on different islands of Indonesia.

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