Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ecosystems and Biomes

What is a Biome? 
   A biome is a large area with similar flora, fauna, and microorganisms.  Most of us are familiar with the tropical rainforests, tundra in the arctic regions, and the evergreen trees in the coniferous forests. Each of these large communities contain species that are adapted to its varying conditions of water, heat, and soil.  For instance, polar bears thrive in the arctic while cactus plants have a thick skin to help preserve water in the hot desert.  To learn more about each of the major biomes, click on the appropriate heading to the right. 
What is an Ecosystem? 
   Most of us are confused when it comes to the words ecosystem and biome.  What's the difference?  There is a slight difference between the two words.  An ecosystem is much smaller than a biome.  Conversely, a biome can be thought of many similar ecosystems throughout the world grouped together.  An ecosystem can be as large as the Sahara Desert, or as small as a puddle or vernal pool. 
   Ecosystems are dynamic interactions between plants, animals, and microorganisms and their environment working together as a functional unit.  Ecosystems will fail if they do not remain in balance.  No community can carry more organisms than its food, water, and shelter can accomodate.  Food and territory are often balanced by natural phenomena such as fire, disease, and the number of predators.  Each organism has its own niche, or role, to play. 

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