North American Biomes

TitleNorth American Biomes
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsPeters DC, Scroggs SLP, Yao J
JournalOxford Bibliographies
Date Published08/2014
Accession NumberJRN53986
ARIS Log Number300472

The North America biome includes the major ecoregions that make up the land area of Canada, the United States, Mexico, and countries in Central America. The biome is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea. This large area (over 24 x 106 km2) is characterized by a broad range of temperature and precipitation that result in nine major ecoregions, from boreal forests and tundra near the North Pole to tropical deciduous and coniferous forests in the south near the equator.  Temperate forests (deciduous, coniferous), grasslands and shrublands, savannas, and deserts occur in the central part. Landscape-scale patterns in contemporary ecosystems within each ecoregion reflect variability in climate and soil parent material combined with human activities that have increased in extent and intensity over the past several centuries. Within the biome, ecoregions can be influenced by the movement of organisms, water and sediment, fire, and air chemistry from other ecoregions in the biome. At the scale of the biome, connections with other locations on Earth can lead to invasion by exotic species including pests and pathogens, large climatic events such as hurricanes and drought, and changes in air quality through dust storms and volcanic eruptions. These tele-connections often occur infrequently, yet with large and surprising effects on ecosystem properties and dynamics. Increasing awareness of these broad-scale dynamics that connect biomes globally is leading to new avenues of research that intersect ecology with other disciplines.