2
Patterns of Life

Biomes and their regional expressions are composed of plants and animals that have had long, independent histories of evolution and dispersal but currently inhabit the same geographic area. They may have originated in the same place or in different places, in the place where they are now found or on some distant landmass or in a faraway ocean. Ecologists talk of communities assembling, meaning that the component species come together to form an interacting group of organisms that function together to ensure the flow of energy and cycling of nutrients through the ecosystem. This process happens on local, regional, and global scales.

As species originate, move, are halted by or overcome barriers, adapt to new environments or go extinct, a variety of species distribution patterns result. Early naturalist-explorers, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, saw the main outlines of these patterns. Modern scientists continue to search for their explanations. All of the patterns of life discussed in this chapter are important factors that make one biome distinct from another or one regional expression of the same biome distinct from all the others. The kinds and numbers of species or other taxa present, the evolutionary and geographic origins of the major plants and animals of a biome, the dominant growthforms of plants, characteristic mosaics or zonation of vegetation—all are major considerations in the study of biomes and each is discussed in this chapter.

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Introduction to Biomes
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - Introduction to the Biome Concept 1
  • 2 - Patterns of Life 37
  • 3 - Ecological Concepts Important to the Study of Biomes 53
  • 4 - Major Environmental Factors in Terrestrial Biomes 77
  • 5 - Major Environmental Factors in Aquatic Biomes 117
  • Appendix - Representative Climate Data for Terrestrial Biomes 135
  • Glossary 145
  • Bibliography 155
  • Index 159
  • About the Author 165
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