Biomes and Ecosystens
After the late January North American intrusion of the stratospheric polar vortex, we continue to hear many references to the polar vortex each time a significant winter event occurs. The term is now increasingly used, often incorrectly, by mid-latitude residents as winter’s wrath approaches and retreats.
People who inhabit areas north of 35º latitude are counseled to “think snow” or at the very least, prepare for cold conditions when shortened days of winter approach. During that season, plants and animals of their regions undergo changes in appearance and behavior. Bioscientists have described those cold weather plants and animals in detail, along with the seasonal adaptations they undergo.
Biomes are large geographical areas with sizable ecological communities of plants and animals. Smaller areas exist within biomes. They are termed ecosystems—a group of species living in a given area interacting with one another and their environment. Temperature and climate are important factors in determining the character of ecosystems. When the stratospheric polar vortex struck North America in January 2019, we were reminded of biomes and ecosystems affected by cold temperature conditions—yes, even extremely cold temperature conditions. The Creator must have experienced joy when he observed the marvelous variety of weather conditions and multitudes of diverse living things He had created at the conclusion of His creative activity. In Genesis 1 God exults in His many works of creation after His work was completed: “And God saw that it was good.” The Book of Job, Chapters 35-41, offers a superb account of meteorological and biological wonders of the created world.
Genesis speaks of events in the Garden of Eden. It must have been a unique place insulated from hardships outside the garden. As we read the brief Genesis account of creation, many questions recur concerning its precise location, size, and environmental conditions not only within the garden but also thousands of miles and several continents away. We offer our opinion that our planet was filled with a wonderful multiplicity of life with millions of different animal and plant species and diverse worldwide biomes ranging from warm to cold, from wet to dry, and from lush plant life to sparse. We imagine that life outside the limited area of Eden would have pleased scientists with opportunities to observe rich biomes.
In the cold North American winter of 2018-2019 we were reminded of conditions to our north in one of the six major planetary biomes. This is the tundra. Various sources list additional biome types, regions and sub-biomes. Most people are familiar with the tundra biome. Generally it is a cold region with a few simple plants. The land has a short growing season and its soils are frozen for much of the year.
We conclude with a shout-out to the United States Postal Service for producing a series of twelve self adhesive stamp sheets from 1999 to 2010, each highlighting life in a different ecosystem. Each sheet is an 8”X10” drawing of a specific ecological area including the artist’s rendition of 24 plants and animals. The only artistic interruption consists of (for example) USA37 printed at ten locations on the perforated sheet. Sheet five depicts the Brooks Range, Alaska “Arctic Tundra” with drawings of willow ptarmigan, grizzly bear, arctic grayling, dwarf birch, and map lichen, among others. Sheet 12 highlights animals and plants of the Alpine Tundra in Rocky Mountain National Park such as bighorn sheep, golden eagle, elk, alpine forget-me-not, and magdalena alpine butterfly. Such products make meaningful gifts for young children.
We delight in the environmental adaptability of individual species. These beautiful specimens possess an abundance of unique function and design. We need not travel the world to observe the unique behavior of animals and the appeal of plant life. These occur in our own neighborhoods. They strengthen our belief in God and our appreciation of the love He provides for humanity. Following is a link expressing our wonder for animal behavior in our local neighborhood: