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In ecology, a biome is a major regional group of distinctive plant and animal communities well adapted to the region's physical environment. The concept of a biome highlights the interaction among plant and animal populations, soil, water and air. A biome is discernible at a global scale, and a biotic area is the geographical area occupied by a particular biome. The Earth's biomes comprise the biosphere.

Biomes are defined by the global pattern of species. This pattern is influenced by regional climate, soil characteristics, substrate condition (due to periodic flooding for example), and other physical environment factors. In turn, climate and soil partly depend on latitude, altitude and slope.

A biome is composed of the climax flora and all associated subclimax, or degraded, flora, fauna and soils, but can often be identified by the climax flora type, vertical stratification or vegetation adaptation.

Biomes may be divided into:

  1. Terrestrial (also called continental) biomes and
  2. Aquatic biomes.

Often, a type of biome in a particular area is given a local name. For example, a Temperate grassland or shrubland biome is known as steppe in central Asia, savanna or veld in southernAfrica, prairie in North America, pampa in South America and outback in Australia.


Latitude Classification

Latitude is a major factor defining biomes. There is a good correlation between the distribution of climates with latitude, and homogenous vegetation bands. Another major factor is humidity. This can be illustrated by the fact that biodiversity increases away from the poles towards the equator, and increases with humidity.

Thus, most widely used classification of biomes is related to latitude (or temperature zoning) and humidity :

Arctic or Subarctic area

Subarctic and Boreal area

Temperate cold

Temperate warm or sub-tropical



Altitude and Latitude Classification

Another system of classification takes into account altitude and humidity, ignoring temperature as a factor. This classification is used to define the Global 200 list of ecoregions identified by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as priorities for conservation.

This classification gives the following terrestrial biomes :

Imperfect Clasification

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.

See also

Habitat Ecozone Ecoregion Ecotope

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