types of biomes and their characteristics

There are different types of biomes and their characteristics which vary from one biome to another.

Biomes, or major geographic regions of the planet, are characterized by similar plant and animal species.

Similar biomes occur in widely different ecosystems.

Many of these have similar environmental conditions, including temperature and precipitation as well as soil characteristics.

There are land and water biomes. Land biomes include deserts, grasslands and Tundra, while freshwater aquatic biomes include rivers and oceans. Climate plays a significant role in determining which organisms live within a biome.

Within a biome are ecosystems that support many different species of plants and animals.


the ecosystems

One way of thinking about an ecosystem is that it is a community of living organisms in a given area interacting with each other and their environment.

Different types of ecosystems are influenced by the climate and the species of plants and animals found there.

Ecosystems can vary in size, too; they can be as big as an ocean or small enough to fit in a teaspoon.

Characteristics of Biomes

a characteristic of biomes

In this section, we will look at the types of biomes and their significant features.

The two major classifications of biomes are:

  • Land-based biomes, also known as terrestrial biomes
  • Water-based biomes are also known as aquatic biomes

Terrestrial Biomes

Desert Biomes

Deserts make up roughly one-fifth of the Earth’s surface area, including parts of the Sahara, Kalahari, Mojave deserts, and large areas of Australia.

Deserts are defined by their aridity—that is, they receive less than 50 centimeters of rainfall a year.

The four significant classifications of desert biomes are:

Hot and Dry Deserts

a hot and dry desert

They include the Sahara, the Gobi, and the Mojave. Hot deserts can experience warm temperatures year-round, with summer days topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Winters are mild, typically with less than an inch of rain a month.

The hot, arid desert climate of the Sahara extends through North Africa, covering most of Libya and Egypt and sections of Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia.

Semiarid Deserts

They are also called steppes and receive between 10 and 20 inches of rain a year.

Temperatures can range from blazing hot to frigidly cold. The winters usually are dry.

Semiarid deserts are located in the subtropics and are found on the west coast of continents. They are characterized by having long summers.

Coastal Deserts

a coastal deserts

They are found on the Western edge of continents in the Northern Hemisphere and are known for having cool winters that transition into warm summers.

Cold Deserts

They are also known as high-altitude deserts.

They get very little sunlight for half of the year—are characterized by high levels of rainfall in the summer and winter months, but only a few days of snowfall from December through February.

Forest Biomes

the forest biomes

Forests are some of the largest ecosystems on Earth, covering more than one-third of the land.

This biome’s dense foliage and low light conditions support a wide range of plants, including ferns and conifers.

Here are the three major types of forest biomes:


They play an essential role in global weather patterns because they act like giant sponges.

Rainforests help to balance out the temperature around the world.

The moisture that people see in the clouds above rainforests evaporates from those forests and falls back down in the rain in other parts of the forest.

Tropical Forests

a tropical forests

They have a high diversity of animal and plant species. They are warm and wet all year, with only two seasons.

Tropical forests contain distinct damp and dry seasons.

The summer rainy season is when the forest produces most of its annual plant growth, while the winter dry season is when most animals retreat to sheltered areas.

Temperate Forests

They are known for the richness of their soil, which is enriched by an abundant amount of decaying plant matter.

Grassland Biome

the grassland biome

Grasslands are areas where grass and other herbaceous plants predominate.

Millions of square miles of Earth are covered with grasslands. The temperate grasslands are found in Europe, Asia, and North America.

The tropical savannas are located in Africa and South America, and temperate steppes occur in Asia.

Grasslands are regions of the Earth that typically see a hot summer, cold winter, and an average temperature of 40-38 degrees Celsius.

Grasslands get 50 to 89 centimeters of precipitation per year and experience heat and cold extremes.

Note: Several types of animals and plants live in grasslands, such as horses, lions, deer, wolves, and birds.

Here are the primary subdivisions of the grassland biome:


the savannah

Savannah is a type of grassland characterized by distinct patches of woody vegetation.

Savannas have distinct patches of trees, shrubs, and tall grasses. The soil is made up of clay containing a high water content.

Temperate Grassland

They are home to prairie-like ecosystems where grass species are the primary vegetation.

Inhabitants include various hardy herbivores, such as ponies and zebras, and carnivores, such as lions and cheetahs.

Tundra Biome 

Tundra comes from an Inuit word meaning “that which perishes.”

It is a cold desert where the grasses and other plants die each year—and are covered by snow and ice.

The Tundra is characterized by a landscape of rolling treeless plains, low-growing vegetation such as grasses, and temperatures too cold for trees to grow.

a tundra biome

The Tundra has a temperature range of -34°C to 12°C. It averages 15-25 cm of precipitation per year.

Polar Bears, Wolves, Caribou, Birds, and Salmon can be found in the Tundra.

Grasses, Cushion Plants, and Trees grow along the Tundra Mountain Ridges.

Here are the subdivisions of the tundra biome:

Arctic Tundra

It’s found in the northern hemisphere, between the Arctic Circle and the North Pole.

It has exceptionally frigid temperatures and is not suitable for many plants.

Alpine Tundra

It is a biome located in the southern hemisphere on high mountains. It is where trees cannot grow because of cold temperatures and low precipitation.

Aquatic Biomes

the aquatic biome

The second primary classification when considering types of biomes and their characteristics are the aquatic or water biome.

Here are the characteristics of aquatic:

Freshwater Biomes

Freshwater biomes are characterized by the presence of little or no salt.

Wetlands, lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams are part of this group. Here are the subdivisions of freshwater biomes:

Rivers and Streams

They move over land, eroding the soil and picking up dirt as they go.

Good rivers are the Nile River in Africa, the Amazon River in South America, and the Mississippi River in North America.

Ponds and Lakes

a ponds and lake

Ranging in size from a few square meters to streams and rivers — provide homes for fish, insects, amphibians, and other aquatic creatures.


They are areas of marsh or swamp, such as the swamps and marshes of the southeastern U.S.

They are quite wet, but are not necessarily covered in standing water.

Marine Biome

a marine biome

The marine biome is the largest biome on Earth. It covers 70 percent of our planet’s surface.

It greatly influences the climate of the rest of Earth’s biomes – it evaporates water that becomes rain, which grows crops.

It creates winds that help circulate air, and it helps to keep coastal temperatures from fluctuating widely.

Here are the subdivisions of the marine biome:


They are the Earth’s largest ecosystems. They comprise nearly 70% of the Earth’s surface and contain 97.2% of the Earth’s available water supply.

The four main zones of oceans are:

  • Intertidal zone
  • Pelagic zone
  • Benthic zone
  • Abyssal zone

Coral Reefs

a coral reef

Coral reefs are generally found in clear, tropical oceans, growing in water from the surface to about 150 feet (45 meters) deep because they need sunlight to survive.

There are three main types of reefs:

  • Atolls
  • Barrier Reefs
  • Fringing Reefs
Note: An estuary is a lower stretch of a river or stream, where saltwater from the ocean mixes with fresh water from rivers and streams.

Final Thought

There are numerous divisions and subdivisions of biomes when learning about types of biomes and their characteristics.

It’s worth noting the variations in ecosystems that form different types of biomes to understand them better.

Because biomes are perpetually changing, it is essential to preserve and conserve them.

We should therefore continue to protect them from harmful human actions.