Biomes & Habitats

Here we provide some general information about biomes and habitats, as well as specific biome and habitat information for Kansas, and related links are provided below.

Biomes (sometimes referred to as life zones) are large geographic areas with similar characteristics. Each biome is produced by a certain set of conditions, like climate (such as temperature and precipitation) and soil, and is characterized by a particular set of natural vegetation. Biomes also consist of a specific set of organisms that are adapted for the conditions there. Ecologists agree on the general concept of a biome. However, not everyone agrees on the specifics of exactly what all of the biomes are, or how finely they are divided; some other tricky areas include water and mountains. Therefore, there is no agreement about the precise number of biomes in the world, but it is probably between 6 and 10.

Biomes in Kansas include deciduous forest and grassland (and sometimes fresh water, such as rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds, also is included). Kansas has hot and cold seasons, wetter and drier seasons, and relatively rich soils. Where precipitation tends to be greater and is received throughout much of the year, deciduous trees (those that loose their leaves in the cold season) dominate, representing the deciduous forest biome. Where precipitation tends to be more seasonal, where soil may be a bit poorer, and where fire prevents the invasion of trees, we find the grassland biome. As the name suggests, grasses dominate here (with few trees), and fire is a critical component in maintaining this biome. Grassland historically was the predominate biome in Kansas. Although much grassland still exists, the invasion of European settlers over the last 200 years, and subsequent increase in the number of humans, has resulted in the reduction of grassland (through the suppression of fire and invasion of trees leading to increased deciduous forest, as well as the direct conversion of grassland into cultivated and urban areas). To learn more about the vertebrates found in these biomes in Kansas, select the link (immediately below) for the sample lesson available from the Environments and Biomes module.

Distribution of Biomes and Vertebrates in Kansas

A habitat is the physical environment in which an organism can reside, and as such is defined by the species on which one focuses. This means that habitats can range from very small (for example, a single bush for some invertebrate species) to very large (for example, an entire ocean for certain species of whales), but on average, habitats are relatively local and are smaller than biomes. Conditions that are important in creating biomes (such as climate and soil) often are those that produce habitats but usually in a scaled-down version (for example, weather or a specific soil type). Habitats may be created by a variety of conditions including a particular weather pattern, moisture regime, substrate type, light concentration, and salinity level in an area. Further, individual animals or plants may be essential habitat components; for example, a particular fish may serve as the habitat for a certain parasite, whereas a specific plant may be the habitat for a selective butterfly.

In Kansas, potential habitats for species were mapped across the state as part of KS-GAP Phase 1 as land covers (43 categories including types of grassland, deciduous forest, and marshes or water, as well as human-created types like cultivated and urban areas); the map can be seen by selecting the link below for Kansas land cover. To see the specific habitats in which Kansas vertebrates are found, select the following link for the wildlife habitat relationship models (WHRMs) for individual vertebrates mapped in Kansas during KS-GAP Phase 1.

Kansas Land-cover Map Vertebrate WHRMs
Below are web sites that provide general information about BIOMES and HABITATS, DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BIOMES & HABITATS, or comparison of ECOSYSTEMS, BIOMES & HABITATS.

Explore these links!!

Disclaimer: You will leave the KS-GAP Education Project web site by choosing any of the following links. They provide additional interesting and informative material; however, the KS-GAP Education Staff is not responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, nor does any link imply endorsement of that web site by the KS-GAP Education Project.


Biomes of the World at the Missouri Botanical Garden

The World's Biomes at the University of California Museum of Paleontology (Berkeley)

Biome Resources at the Network Montana Project (Montana State University and the University of Montana)

Biome Basics at the University of Richmond Education Department

Introduction to Biomes at the Radford University Geography Department *Advanced

Biome Information at the Hazelbrook Middle School Media Center


Nature and Wildlife Habitat Guides: Habitats and Life Zones at®

Habitats and Biomes at ThinkQuest's Virtual Zoo

Conservation for Wildlife and Wild Places at the National Wildlife Federation


Livings Things: Habitats & Ecosystems at the Franklin Institute

Curriculum - Habitat at Expedition North America


Livings Things: Habitats & Ecosystems at the Franklin Institute

Ecosystems at Greenscreen

Nature and Wildlife Habitat Guides: Habitats and Life Zones at®

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Page last updated: 5 June, 2003

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