Autumn.wmf (12088 bytes) Concepts of Biology (BIOL116) - Dr. S.G. Saupe; Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321;;

Biomes Study Guide

Goal of the Unit
:   The goal of this unit is to provide an introduction to some large scale ecological interactions.

Specific Learning Objectives:  Upon completion of this unit you should be able to:

  1. describe factors that determines the type of biome in an area

  2. describe the characteristics of common biomes

Required Reading:   Purves, Chapter 57

Important Terms/Concepts:  (Can you use them conversationally?

  • atmosphere

  • biome

  • biosphere

  • broadleaf                    

  • climate

  • conifer 

  • deciduous

  • evergreen                    

  • hydrosphere             

  • leeward

  • permafrost                   

  • rain shadow             

  • weather

  • windward  

Questions for Thought & Study:

  1. What is soil?  Identify some of the components of soil.

  2. What is climate?  Identify some factors that influence the climate of an area.

  3. For each of the major terrestrial biomes listed above, to give: nearest location; characteristic plant and animal species; climate; unique geographic features (i.e., flat, mountainous)

  4. In what ways have periodic disturbances helped determine biome type

  5. Can you plot the major biomes on a climograph?  Or, given precipitation and moisture data, can you predict the likely biome to develop?

  6. Only about half the sun's radiation reaches the earth?  What happens to the other half?

  7. Explain why deserts tend to form at latitudes of 30 N and 30 S

  8. There are belts of moisture at the equator and approximately 60 N and 60 S.  Why?

  9. Explain the cause for seasonal variations in climate

  10. Why is the water generally too cold for pleasurable swimming along the California coast, but it is wonderful along the SE coast of the US

  11. Why is the California coast so wet and shrouded in fog?

  12. What is the rainshadow effect?

  13. What is El Nino?  

  14. Check out the Morowitz article - Two Views of Life.

Biomes in the Media
Can you name a film, book or play set in each of the following biomes: 
Desert, grassland, savanna,  tropical forests, temperate forest,  coniferous (boreal) forest, tundra (arctic, alpine)?  Identify a characteristic animal and plant for each biome. Describe in general terms the amount of rainfall and temperature for each.  And, indicate the nearest location of this biome.

Can you explain each of the following observations?

  1. There are large deserts located at 30 degrees N and S latitude.

  2. Equatorial areas (around the equator) generally experience high rainfall and are often characterized by having tropical rain forests.

  3. There is vastly different vegetation (desert, grasslands) just to the east of the coastal mountain ranges of the US's Pacific coast than just to the west of the mountain ranges (forests, temperate rain forests).

  4. The water is generally too cold for pleasurable swimming along the California coast, but it is wonderful along the SE coast of the US.

  5. The California coast is wet and shrouded in fog.

  6. Grassland is the major biome in south/western Minnesota.

  7. Temperate forest is the major biome type that follows a diagonal from the SE corner of Minnesota to the NW corner of the state.

  8.  Boreal forest is the major biome type in northern Minnesota.

Goddess of the Earth - Video

  1. How did the Viking spacecraft check for life on Mars?

  2. Lovelock predicted that Mars is lifeless.  What was his reasoning?

  3. Describe the difference between the atmospheric composition of Earth and Mars

  4. Solar output increased during the geological history of the earth.  However, the Earth's temperature has remained relatively constant.  Explain.

  5. What was the effect of space travel on the development of the Gaia hypothesis?

  6. What is the source of oxygen in the atomosphere?  methane?

  7. What is the Greenhouse effect?

  8. Over geological history, the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have declined.  Why have they declined and what is the effec ton climate?

  9. Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis was quickly adopted by polluters, eco-wieners, and religious groups but generally ignored by the scientific community.  Why?

  10. Gaia is one view of life on Earth.  What is the more conventional view?


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Last updated: May 10, 2004        � Copyright by SG Saupe