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11 Different Types of Ecosystems Around the World

11 Different Types of Ecosystems Around the World

The official definition of an ecosystem according to Oxford Languages is a “biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.” Ecosystems are also called habitats, biomes and biospheres.

Different types of ecosystems exist everywhere in the world, from the Eurasian steppes to the African grasslands. Each unique ecosystem supports its own biological life to create a chain where one organism is dependent on the next.

Ecosystems support life and provide resources, but the ecosystems of the world are also under very serious threat.

Documentaries of the seventies and eighties would warn of large environmental damage in the near future. Now that we have reached the future, the true environment is worse than we might have estimated then.

Ecological damage through pollution, deforestation, and industry cause incredible long-term damage to the environment.

A recent study published in the Guardian estimates that just 3% of the world’s total ecosystems remain completely healthy and undisturbed by people.

Specifically deforestation alone causes as much as 1% of damage to the world’s forest area – and that is only measured per year.

Approximately 3.2 billion people are affected by environmental damage each year due to a decline in natural resources. Other forms of biological life in these areas are affected just as much (and in some cases, damage helps their extinction).

An understanding of the world’s ecosystems can help to better protect our environments for future generations.

A tundra is not the same as a desert, and different life will flourish in a grassland versus the arctic. Each ecosystem is different, and yet all ecosystems fit together to make a bigger picture.

The good news?

Damage to the ecosystem is complicated to reverse, but is not an impossible task to achieve if the world works together. Sustainable investment and charitable organizations (like the World Wildlife Fund) do their part to restore the world’s ecosystems.

Here are 11 different types of ecosystems around the world.

1. Arctic

Icebergs at Artic

The Arctic circle is one of the world’s utmost polar circles, located on the Northernmost part of the globe.

While the Arctic is huge, it only makes up about 4% of the Earth’s total land surface. Compared to grasslands that comprise about 20% to 40% of the world’s surface, the Arctic is one of the smaller ecosystems we have.

Nine countries make up the Arctic, including Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia and parts of the United States.

Conditions in the Arctic are harsh, but not too harsh for people or other biological life to survive it. Temperatures are low, and the Arctic is covered in ice for most of the year.

The Arctic might measure as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Its extreme position means that summers are shorter when you’re in the Arctic. Winters, of course, are longer.

The Arctic ocean flanks the region, though creates its own different ecosystems (e.g. marine and coastal). This ocean is the world’s smallest at only 5.4 million miles.

Heightened temperatures, pollution and weather events threaten the livelihood of everything dependent on the Arctic region for their survival.

The impact of melting ice affects not only the Arctic region itself, but also surrounding ecologies that depend on it. Damage to one ecosystem always causes damage to another: it is a horrible environmental Domino effect.

Initiatives and organizations like PAME stand in to support the protection of sustainable living in the Arctic region.

See Related: World’s Largest National Park You Won’t Believe Exist

2. Aquatic

Wildlife at Aquatic Habitat

Water covers more than 70% of the Earth’s total surface, and the world’s water coverage can be divided into two categories after this: aquatic and marine.

Aquatic habitats are dominated by the presence of water, though they are not as large (or as high in salt content) as the world’s oceans.

Rivers, lakes, ponds, marshes, and wetlands are different types of aquatic habitats where you will find a variety of life sustained in the same place.

Aquatic habitats are one of our most important biospheres to protect. Without healthy aquatic habitats, industries like fishing would collapse overnight – and again, think of the Domino effect on the rest of nature!

Statistics reveal that aquatic habitats are some of the worst affected habitats on the planet. Aquatic habitats are sensitive, but often damaged by pollution and irresponsible industries.

Statistics further reveal that as much as 35% of the world’s coral reefs have been totally destroyed and turned into “dead zones” that can no longer support life. That’s more than a third.

More than 500 of these aquatic dead zones in the world should say just how seriously environmental protection is.

See Related: Best Products to Help Climate Change

3. Coastal

Coastal Sceneries

Coastal habitats make up approximately 7% of the world’s total land surface, though support an incredible amount of its overall biological life.

Coastal habitats are the meeting point between ocean and land, where terrestrial environments meet aquatic and marine ones. The coast is one of the richest biomes you might ever encounter.

Estuaries, beaches, rock pools, sand dunes and coastal forests are all different types of coastal habitats. Coral reefs and marshes are another type of coastal habitat, though reefs might also be considered aquatic depending on their depth!

Coastal habitats support as much as 20% of the world’s total biodiversity! The coasts of the world are some of the most important areas we have to protect.

Coastal areas are high in humidity, with moderate to high rainfall. Some coasts are near to coastal forests, while other coasts of the world are rocky and mountainous. Still, these are all coastal habitats!

Erosion, weather, deforestation, pollution, mining, industry and illegal dumping are just some of the negative impacts that this biosphere might face.

Without a healthy coastal biosphere, the industries around it would almost certainly collapse.

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4. Desert

Desert Sand Dune

Deserts make up approximately 35% of the world’s total landmass, and comparatively there are more deserts in the world than there is forest, tundra or grassland.

Deserts are a dry, harsh type of habitat that might only get small amounts of rain throughout the year.

Heat is one characteristic that the majority of world deserts share. Temperatures reach into the extremes, and some deserts will stay at a constant daily temperature of around 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

More than a third of the world is made up out of deserts, though many of these areas would have been lush and green in the past.

Deserts can be found everywhere, including the Gobi (in China), the Namib and Sahara in Africa and the Thar in India.

Of these, the Sahara is the world’s largest desert.

While they are warm during the day, deserts cool down at night as the wind picks up and sun goes down. This allows unique nocturnal life in the desert to flourish.

Desert plants will hold their moisture, while many desert plants grow under the protective barrier of the sand instead. Animals are more active at night, and take advantage of the temperature drop to move and hunt.

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5. Forest

Forest Trail

Forest ecosystems make up approximately 31% of the world’s total land mass, and are further split into different categories dependent on the type of forest (and its dominant characteristics).

Forests are dominated by trees, and usually high in humidity and rainfall due to the environmental conditions they create.

Unfortunately, forests are also lost at a rate of 1% per year. Forests are one of the most threatened biomes thanks to factors like deforestation.

The world’s forests can be split into 3 categories – Tropical, temperate and arboreal. Elevation is one of the factors that define a forest, as are the majority of tree types that prefer to grow in it.

OurWorldData.org estimates that the world has lost one-third of its forest biome in all. Further online statistics reveal that only about 5% of original redwoods are left in nature.

Forests everywhere need our help.

With forests under threat and constant decline, there is not much time left to act in order to save the world’s forests.

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7. Grassland

Grassland Sceneries

Grassland is defined by large, open plains and the biological life that calls this biosphere their home. Vegetation (e.g. grasses) are the most of what you will find here, but of course, not all by far.

Grassland habitats are one of the world’s largest, and make up as much as 20% to 40% of the world’s land surface. Forests make up approximately 31% by direct comparison.

The North American prairies and African Savannah describe just two examples of grassland environments.

Grasslands are dominated by different grass varieties, but don’t let the size of this ecosystem fool you into thinking it is not under threat right now.

The world’s grasslands are disappearing at such a rate that only about 10% of total grasslands are left. Damage to this particular habitat occurs just as much as in others.

Drought and water scarcity are two natural dangers that face the future of the grasslands.

Where temperatures rise further due to global warming, nature finds it even more difficult to support itself.

See Related: Conservation vs Preservation: The Differences

8. Tundra

Tundra Sceneries

Tundras make up as much as 10% of the world’s total land surface, and are dominated by the presence of ice. Tundras are also referred to as ice deserts, and can be found throughout colder parts of the world (like Alaska and Canada).

Officially, the tundra is one of the harshest biomes for life to survive in.

Tundras are considered the coldest of the world’s environments, with temperatures only bested by the most extremes. While it’s covered in ice, tundras are as dry as deserts – and just as harsh for most varieties of life.

The tundra ecosystem is not too harsh to support life. Humans might find conditions disconcerting, but it is perfect for the biological organisms adapted to it.

Labrador tea, Arctic poppy, Cotton grass and Caribou moss are just some of the plant types that flourish in the extreme tundra biosphere.

As for animals, the tundra is home to Polar bears, Arctic foxes, reindeer, and snowy owls. Like plants, the animals of the tundra have adapted to suit their harsh environment.

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9. Mountain Ranges

Mountain Ranges Sceneries

Mountain ranges are chains of linked-together mountain peaks, and they exist everywhere in the world. The Himalayas and the Andes ranges are just two examples that almost everyone knows – but unfortunately, also some of the most threatened biomes in the world.

Each mountain is measured by its peak, but each mountain range is measured by its highest summit. Mountaineers dedicate their sport to reaching the top – and that’s challenging for anyone.

Conditions are harsh atop the average mountain range, and get less ideal for humans the higher up they are measured.

Changes in pressure make moving and breathing, basic tasks on the ground, much more difficult. Harsh for people, mountain ranges can surprisingly still support ample life as its own unique habitat.

Pines, spruce and juniper trees are some of the biological life that prefer higher altitudes and mountainous soil.

Snow leopards, cougars, yaks and llamas are just some of the animals that flourish in the world’s mountain ranges.

See Related: What is Biomass Energy: Pros & Cons of this Resource

10. Steppes

Herding at Steppes

Steppes are a type of grassland, covered in grass, though located between polar and tropic regions instead of inland where you would find most types of grassland biospheres.

Other types of grassland biospheres include the Savannah and prairies, also categorized by large open plains dominated by grass (though with more trees than the steppes).

A steppe contains far lees tree coverage than a grassland, and steppes contain varied animal life that includes everything from burrowing rodents to succulent plants.

The Eurasian steppes are perhaps the most famous mentions of this habitat in the world – and in fact, they are so well-known that they are just referred to as the steppes in most resources.

The conditions found within steppes can be extremely harsh and mountainous. They are not ideal for human exploration, but perfect for the animals that have adapted to it.

Eagles, prairie dogs, bison, antelopes and marmots are all animals that you might find at the steppes. Unfortunately, many of these species are on the endangered species list (or fast on the way there).

Just like most of the world’s habitats, the steppes themselves are also considered to be under severe threat. Climate change has caused severe decline of the world’s grasslands in general, and the steppes are just as hard hit.

Remember that the steppes require just as much protection due to the effects of our carbon footprint, deforestation and pollution.

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11. Wetlands

Wetlands Sceneries and Wildlife

Wetlands make up about 7% of the world’s total land area. By comparison to others like tundra (10%) or forest (35%), wetlands are one of the world’s smallest biomes when measured by their total land coverage.

Wetlands are called “wet” due to the fact that the soil is waterlogged, and remains in this state for most of the year. Swamps and marshes create heat and humidity, but also an ideal supportive environment for life.

Water birds, beavers, muskrats, alligators and egrets are just some of the animals you might find around the wetland ecosystem.

Even though the world’s wetlands don’t make up as much as the grasslands or forests, wetlands are essential for the world’s other habitats to function.

Wetlands act as a natural filtration system for the water that passes through, guaranteeing cleaner lakes and rivers.

If wetlands aren’t at their full capacity, it can (and will) affect the water quality on the other side. A lot of environmental damage filters through just from the world’s damaged wetlands.

It’s not only about their role as a filtration system for other environments.

Wetlands also protect the natural environment against excessive harm during storms. A healthy wetland can provide a long-term barrier against erosion that might damage the surrounding habitats.

Worldwide projects (including ones launched by the World Wildlife Fund) are in place to protect and restore the world’s wetlands.

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