Scientists divide the Earth into a number of different vegetation zones, also known as “biomes”. The plant and animal life found in each zone depends on the region’s climate, landscape, and latitude. Over millions of years, plants and animals have adapted to life in this range of climates, often developing special features that have helped them to survive. The map also highlights how similar landscapes, such as taiga or desert, occur at the same latitude across the world.
|POLAR AND TUNDRA|
POLAR AND TUNDRA
The areas around the North and South poles are freezing cold and covered in ice. South of the North Pole lies a region called the tundra where the lower layers of soil are permanently frozen. Hardy mosses, lichens, and shrubs are the only plants that can survive here.
In Russian, the word taiga means “cold forest.” It describes the vast evergreen forests that stretch across northern Canada, Scandinavia, and the Russian Federation. Evergreen trees, such as fir, spruce, and pine, are well-adapted to the long, snowy winters.
The higher up a mountain you go, the colder it gets. Trees and plants grow on the lower slopes of many mountains. But above a certain level, called the tree line, it is too cold and windy for plants to survive. High mountain peaks are often covered in snow all year round.
Much of the land in northern Europe and North America was once covered by deciduous forests (trees that lose their leaves in winter). Most of these have now been cut down. Deciduous trees grow well in temperate climates where it is never very hot or very cold.
Areas with a Mediterranean climate have hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. They include land around the Mediterranean Sea and other similar places, such as California in the US. Plants and trees, such as olives, have adapted to survive the lack of water in summer.
Vast grasslands cover the centers of some of the continents. They include the South American pampas and the North American prairies. They have hot, dry summers and very cold winters. Large parts of these grasslands are now plowed for wheat or used to raise cattle.
|TROPICAL RAIN FOREST|
TROPICAL RAIN FOREST
Around the equator, the climate is hot and wet all year round, and providing ideal conditions for lush, green tropical forests to thrive. The world’s rain forests may contain 50,000 different types of trees, as well as millions of other species of plants and animals.
Deserts are the hottest, driest places on Earth. Despite heat during the day, temperatures may plunge to below freezing at night. In some deserts, years pass without rain. Deserts often contain sandy soil that can only support plants such as cacti.
Between the hot deserts and tropical rain forests lie tropical grasslands, such as the African savanna. The climate here is always hot, but the year is divided into a wet and a dry season. Tall grasses, as well as low trees and shrubs, grow in these hot areas.