Student Resource Page: Classifying Ecological Zones

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Domain

Mean Monthly Temperature

Annual Precipitation

Length of Dry Season


Other Characteristics

Zone

Tropical

More than 64° F (18° C)  all months of the year

At least 60 inches (1500 mm), often more than 80 inches (2000 mm)   

0 - 3 months

 

Tropical rainforest

40 to 80 inches (1000-2000 mm)

3 - 5 months

 

Tropical moist deciduous forest

20 to 60 inches (500-1500 mm)

5 - 8 months

 

Tropical dry forest

8 to 20 inches (200-500 mm)

 

Rain evaporates quickly

Tropical shrubland

Less than 8 inches (less than 200 mm)

12 months

 

Tropical desert

Subtropical

More than 50° F  (10° C) at least 8 months of the year

More than 40 inches (1000 mm)

0 months (humid)

 

Subtropical humid forest

16 to 36 inches (400-900 mm)

summer

 

Subtropical dry forest

Varies

 

Rain evaporates quickly

Subtropical steppe

Low rainfall

12 months

 

Subtropical desert

Temperate

More than 50° F (10° C)  4 to 8 months of the year

16 to 120 inches (400-3000 mm)

 

Coldest month is more than 0° C (32° F)

Temperate oceanic forest

Varies

 

Coldest month is less than 0° C (32° F)

Temperate continental forest

8 to 16 inches (200-300 mm)

 

Rain evaporates quickly

Temperate steppe/prairie

Low rainfall 

12 months

 

Temperate desert

Boreal

More than 50° F  (10° C) 1 - 4 months of the year

Usually less than 20 inches (500 mm)

 

Mostly dense forest

Boreal coniferous forest

Usually less than 20 inches (500 mm)

 

Mostly sparse forest and woodland

Boreal tundra woodland

Polar

Less than 10° C (50° F) all months of the year

   

Less than 10° C (50° F) all months of the year

Polar

Note: High elevations can affect temperature and plant types. Mountain forests, which are considered to be separate ecological zones, are not shown here. To learn about these zones see the source listed below.

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Forestry Department. Global Ecological Zoning for the Global Forest Resources Assessment, 2000. Rome: FAO, 2001. (accessed October 1, 2008)

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