Biomes are very large grouping of the world’s vegetation. The Biosphere contains about a dozen Biomes

Biomes are very large grouping of the world’s vegetation. Their characteristics are strongly influenced by three main elements of the Biosphere – land, water and atmosphere, and by location. These determine climate and soils in a Biome, and the types of plants and animals that will live there.

To use a rough analogy, a Biome is like an organ in the human body. It functions in its own specialized way and works in balance with the other Biomes (organs). A Biome cannot exist on its own but needs the Biosphere (the body) to exist.

Boreal Forest. Photo: Natural Resources Canada

The Biosphere contains about a dozen Biomes. One example is the Boreal Forest which covers a huge swath of Russia and Canada (and parts of other countries). Animals such as the beaver and the timber wolf are well adapted to the Boreal Forest and contribute to its health. Aboriginal peoples also developed cultures in the Boreal Forest and see it as their home.

Beaver. Photo: Miloszelezny on Pixabay

Each of us lives in a Biome: Tundra, Boreal, Treeline, Temperate Deciduous Forests, Prairies, Mediterranean, Deserts, Savannas, Tropical Seasonal Forests, Tropical Rain Forests, Coastal-Mountain-Wetland.

Wolf. Photo: Pixabay on Pexels

Few people understand changes in the Biosphere, but changes in a Biome are more evident. For example, human disasters such as drought and famine may relate to growth of the Desert Biome at the expense of the adjoining Savanna Biome (where more people live). People are now starting to understand how the pressure of human activities is causing change in Biomes (and therefore changes in the Biosphere). They are looking for ways to reduce this pressure.

Let’s return to the analogy of the human body. It is easier to measure what is happening in an organ – such as the lungs or skin – than overall changes in the body as a whole. In the same way, changes in a Biome are easier to measure than changes in the Biosphere. Yet know too that inputs which improve the health for one organ (diet, exercise etc.) can improve the health of the body as a whole. In return, better health of the body can benefit other organs too. So at a very broad level, the prescriptions for health of the body and of the Biosphere are the same – increase good inputs, decrease bad ones.

Engaging people in sustainability is essential to effectively apply science that benefits Biomes

Savannah Biome (Cerrado), Brazil. Photo: James Birtch

Scientific research that focuses on the health of Biomes is identifying useful prescriptions. Yet the application of those prescriptions (research proposals) depends on a culture that receives them. People must value and support actions that benefit Biomes and the Biosphere. Thus, engaging people in sustainability to create a Culture of Sustainability, is essential to applying new science effectively. Positive change may be seen first at the ecosystem level, then at the Biome level. These changes will indicate benefits to the Biosphere.

Understanding our own Biome is useful. For example, northern people living in the Tundra Biome are cooperating to keep track of changes in their Biome. We can do the same where we live. We can form a group of interested people to:

  • Learn about our own Biome
  • Keep track of how it is changing
  • Find a way to live more sustainably in our Biome.

We can help keep the Biome, where we live, healthy, and that will support the Biosphere.