Freshwater Biomes: Climate, Locations, Plants & Animals
Freshwater biomes are very important to life on earth. They are home to many different species and provide a lot of resources. In this lesson we will go over what a freshwater biome is, where they are located, and the different plants and animals that inhabit them.
What are Freshwater Biomes?
Freshwater biomes are very important to survival on Earth. They are defined as large communities of plants and animals that are centered around water with less than 1% salt concentration. Different types of freshwater biomes include ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, and even some wetlands. (Wetlands are usually not considered freshwater biomes because they usually have too high of a salt content.)
Lakes and ponds are considered still water since they do not move very fast. Rivers and streams move water from one area to another and are considered moving waters. Both still waters and moving waters offer a home to many different types of plants and animals. These organisms are structured to live in the different freshwater habitats. For instance, some plants thrive in the nice calm waters of a lake while others need to have a specific structure to hold onto objects like rocks to survive in rivers or streams.
Estruaries are the areas between the moving and still waters. They too offer a habitat to many different plants and animals. Some animals that you will find here have a very unique ability to survive in both fresh and salt water. Different types of coral reefs, fish, shellfish, and birds can be found living here.
Different areas of freshwater biomes have different structures and resources. For example, headwaters, or the starts of rivers, have water that is clearer and higher in oxygen levels than the middle of the river or the end, the mouth of the river. In the headwaters you will find trout and heterotrophs. In the middle there is much more diversity in species. In the mouth it is murky with all of the sediment the water picked up on the way. Less oxygen and light leads to a lot less diversity of species in the mouth or end of the river.
Freshwater biomes are found all around the world. They have many seasons. A single pond during the summer season could be 4 degrees Celsius on the bottom and 22 degrees Celsius on the top. This same pond could be 4 degrees Celsius on the bottom and 0 degrees Celsius on top in the winter season. The climates usually average 4 degrees Celsius to 21 degrees Celsius.
Did you know that 75% of the world is actually covered in water? There is a lot of water on Earth. However, 97% of this water is actually salt water, and 2% of all the water is freshwater that is locked up in the glaciers. This leaves only 1% of freshwater found around the Earth.
Still, freshwater biomes are found all around the world. Lake Victoria in South Central Africa, as well as the Great Lakes of the Midwest U.S. and Canada, are very well known freshwater areas. Lake Baikal in Southern Siberia is the largest freshwater lake in the world. The Nile in India is the longest freshwater river on Earth.
Plants and Animals
There are many diverse flora and fauna in freshwater biomes. Algae, although not very pretty or fun to swim in, is a favorite snack for most of the animals that live in a freshwater biome. Algae live on the top layer of the water, soaking up the energy from the sun's rays. Plants are not just a snack for the freshwater animals. They provide oxygen through the process of photosynthesis.
There are many different plant species unique to the different types of freshwater environments. Algae just hangs out in the still waters of lakes and ponds. Other plants that hang out in still water are ducktails, water lilies and cattails. Mosses can have the proper structure to cling to rocks and so can survive in faster moving water such as rivers and streams.
Like plants, animals are plentiful in freshwater biomes. Some of these animals, like fish, live solely in the water. Some, like beavers, live on the land surrounding the water. Others, like turtles, live in both the water and on the land of the freshwater biomes.
The trout is a fish that lives in fresh water. They are a very important fish to us. They live in streams and rivers and eat fish and other insects that also inhabit the freshwater biomes.
Freshwater biomes are very important to all life. There are over 700 species of fish that live in fresh water. They are also over 1,200 different amphibians that live in the fresh waters and the surrounding land. This is why freshwater biomes are so important. There are so many species that call them home. From a human perspective, we need the water and the food in which they provide. Let's not forget freshwater biomes also provide us with many different opportunities for research and recreation.
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