Humans and most other members of the animal kingdom are predominantly terrestrial. But the distinction is not always clear-cut as some animals like the penguin spends a majority of their lives in the ocean. Similarly, other animals such as polar bears are born on land but spend most of their time on the sea ice.
A habitat is a natural environment for a particular species where, it can find food, shelter, and mates for reproduction. There are many habitats in the natural world, these include terrestrial habitats, marine habitats and freshwater habitats.
What are Terrestrial Habitats?
Terrestrial habitat is a habitat that is found predominantly on land. Terrestrial habitats are spread out across a large range of environments such as caves, deserts, farms, forests, grasslands, shorelines, wetlands, etc.
Semi-natural or man-made habitats such as national parks or biosphere reserves also constitute terrestrial habitats.
Types of Terrestrial Habitats
There are four major types of terrestrial habitats.
Some important terrestrial habitats
Forest cover nearly 40 million square kilometres of the earth’s surface or 31% of the total land surface.
They are essential for the existence of life on earth as it serves as a natural habitat for a vast range of plants and animals. Currently, over 300 million species of plants and animals live in forests.
The forest ecosystem is divided into four different subgroups –
- Tropical forests have the highest species diversity. This type of forest is usually located around the equator in South Africa, America, and Southeast Asia. The characteristic feature of these regions is the humidity and excessive rainfall. Unsurprisingly, Mawsynram, in India, is reportedly the wettest place on earth, receiving an average annual rainfall of over 467 inches.
- Temperate forests have four well-defined seasons and it receives more rain annual than most other environments, except tropical rainforests. Hence, temperate forests are also called temperate rain forests. Summers are usually mild, with temperatures hovering around 21° to 22°C. However, winters are cold with average temperatures plummeting well below freezing. Temperate forests are characterized by evergreen trees such as conifers, pine, etc. Terrestrial animals that are native to such forests include bears, deer, elk, lynxes, marmots, and owls.
- Boreal Forests are forests that are similar to temperate forests but it has a much harsher temperature. It is also called the Taiga and is the largest land biome. Winters are long and extremely cold, for instance, Verkhoyansk, a town in Russia has recorded temperatures well below -50° C. The coldest ever temperature recorded was – 67° C.
- Plantation Forests are forests that are cultivated for the purpose of commercialization. Usually, only one or two species of trees are cultivated. They are also genetically altered to provide better resistance against diseases and commercial viability (more plant material).
More Details: Forests
Grasslands are areas where the most dominant type of vegetation is grasses. These types of environments occur naturally throughout the world (with the exception of Antarctica).
Grasslands are home for a wide diversity of animal species, such as elephants, giraffes, hyenas, jackrabbits, lions, rhinos, warthogs, and zebras.
The grasslands are subdivided into, namely:
- Tropical Grasslands – It is also known as the Savanna or savannah. They are characterized by a combination of widely spaced grassy fields and woodlands where sufficient light reaches the ground. Annually, such areas receive 30 to 50 inches of rain every year, which is then followed by a dry season.
- Temperate Grasslands – Temperate grasslands are similar to tropical grasslands, except it has warm summers followed by cold winters. Average annual rainfall ranges between 30 and 35 inches. The temperate grasslands are further categorized into Steppes and Prairies. Prairies are characterized by grasslands with tall grasses and Steppes have grasslands with relatively short grasses. Major grasslands include the Great Plains of the Midwest and Palouse Prairie (America).
Deserts are defined as biomes that receive less than 10 inches of rainfall annually. Contrary to popular belief, not all deserts are hot. Antarctica is regarded as a desert as annual precipitation is less than 2 inches (interior parts).
Animals have adapted to the heat by burrowing or living in caves. Other animals have adopted a nocturnal lifestyle, where they stay underground during the heat of the day and hunt food in the relative coolness of the night.
Common terrestrial animals found in such habitats include antelopes, camels, different species of fox, gazelles, goats etc. Also found are endangered species such as the cheetah, African wild dogs, lizards, hyrax, North African ostrich, and desert crocodiles.
Further Reading: Adaptations of Animals In Deserts
Mountains are large landforms that rise above the surrounding surface. Typically, mountain regions have colder climates due to high elevations. As a result, plants and animals residing in these regions have special adaptations to cope with the environment.
The Rocky Mountains of North America and the Andes in South America are considered mountainous regions due to their elevations with respect to their surrounding areas. These form an uneven range that can extend for thousands of miles.
Mountain fauna includes the bighorn sheep, brown and black bear, grizzly bear, mountain goats, mountain lions, and antelope (not found in the same region). Usually, forests are present are moderate elevations, but become increasingly sparse as the elevation increases
Further Reading: Mountains & Mountain Animals
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Frequently Asked Questions
What are Terrestrial Habitats?
Terrestrial habitats are habitats that are found predominantly on land.