The Critical Zone

Lesson 11 Introduction


The last lesson began with an introduction to biodiversity, including soil biodiversity, and moved on to study the classification of life, based on evolutionary relatedness, nutritional mode, and trophic levels. We completed the lesson by thinking about the interactions between organisms (ecology) and the value of ecosystems to human society. In this lesson, we will focus on sets of ecosystems or biomes, their character, and their relationship to the rest of the Critical Zone. We will revisit key concepts and observations learned in earlier lessons on soil, climate, and landscapes. You will then learn to access land cover maps available through the USGS to determine the natural character and human land use of your site. Finally, we will consider the ecology of soils in some detail.

World map identifying landscapes: tundra, taiga, temperate forest, tropical rain forest, grassland, desert.
Generalized global biome map.

What will we learn about in Lesson 11?

  • Global biome characterization
  • Climate-biome relationship
  • Climate-biome links to soil and the Critical Zone
  • Land cover and land-use maps
  • Soil biodiversity and ecology

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson you should be able to:

  • Describe some of the most distinctive characteristics of each of the major global biomes
  • Discuss the relationship between climate and biome distribution
  • Consider the relationship between the climate-biome link and the rest of the Critical Zone
  • Write about the relativity of the aforementioned objectives to your study site
  • Understand simple concepts of soil macro and microbiotic organisms and their basic life processes

What is due for Lesson 11?

Lesson 11 will take us one week to complete. As you work your way through these online materials for Lesson 11, you will encounter additional reading assignments and hands-on exercises and activities. The chart below provides an overview of the requirements for Lesson 11. For assignment details, refer to the lesson page noted.

Please refer to the Calendar in Canvas for specific time frames and due dates.

Lesson 11 assignments
Report (3-page) on biotic links to the CZ, land cover, and soil ecology page 3, 4, and 5 Post to the Lesson 11 - Biomes dropbox in Canvas


If you have any questions, please post them to our Questions? discussion forum (not e-mail), located under the Discussions tab in Canvas. I will check that discussion forum daily to respond. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you, too, are able to help out a classmate.