Biomes are distinguished by the presence of characteristic plants and animals, but they are commonly identified by their dominant plant life. For example, hardwood trees, such as oaks and maples, are the dominant form of plant life in the deciduous forest biome. Most ecologists recognize eight major biomes, shown on the map in Figure 21-1, and several minor biomes. In this section, you will learn about the characteristics of these major biomes: tundra, tropical forest, temperate forest, taiga, temperate grassland, savanna, chaparral, and desert.
Because abiotic factors change over a landscape, biomes seldom have distinct boundaries. As climate varies over the Earth's surface, for example, deserts tend to gradually change into grasslands, tundra into taiga, and so on. Figure 21-1 shows how the major biomes are distributed over the Earth. Because climate varies with elevation, mountains contain a variety of communities and do not belong to any one biome. Table 21-1 describes the major biomes and lists their average annual temperature and rainfall.
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