1. Our Environment

    What natural environments do we live in? What determines an environment? Are there types of environments? Here, we’ll answer these questions and more.

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    Our Environment

    What kinds of environment conditions do most GlobalLab participants live in? Do any of us live in extreme environmental conditions? To figure this out, we first must define what we mean by environmental conditions. What do you think are the key characteristics of a natural environment?

    If you thought weather, you’re close. What are the important elements of weather? Think about what you want to know about the weather before going outside. Is it raining (or snowing or sleeting or hailing), which is called precipitation. And what’s the air temperature? Weather, however, refers to a short period of time—an afternoon, a day, or a couple of days. Weather in any geographical region over long periods of time is called climate. Climate—precipitation and temperature over extended periods of time—greatly influences what grows and lives at any general location.

    Learn more about climates.

    What is another key characteristic of a natural environment? Its geological features and soil type. Locations on the sides on mountains, on open grasslands, along bodies of water, or in deserts all are distinct environments. The kind of soil greatly influences what grows in any environment, which will also determine the local animal species. Soils that are rocky, sandy, clayish, or rich in organic matter will each support different kinds of vegetation.

    Is there another key characteristic of a natural environment? What covers its ground. Is it grass? Evergreen forests? Deciduous forests? Tropical vegetation? Bare rock or sand?

    Geographic regions that have similar environments can support the same kinds of plants and animals. These species have adapted to use the region’s resources. Regions that have the same kinds of ecological communities and environmental conditions are called biomes. There are twelve basic biomes on land and there can be similar biomes in different places as long as the environmental conditions are similar.

    Biomes indicate what kinds of plants and animals live in a region and they are generally named for their dominant vegetation. One biome type, for example, is tropical forests. Tropical forests can be found at various places around the world because these places share the same climate, geology, and soil type.

    Learn more about the different kinds of basic biomes.

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