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January 9, 2012 / Wythe

Worldbuilding: Biomes

Terraform your shit! What I’ve tasked myself with is determining how the future of earth will look and feel, after various nuclear winters, hypertrophic mycoblights, and so forth.

To do this, I needed to get schooled. First, I did some Wikipedia-ing and found a list of zones of humidity, which dictate much of our planet’s ecological makeup. Descending north to south, these latitudinal bands of wetness or dryness are:

  1. Artic/Polar Region – North of Artic Circle
  2. Wet Zone – Mostly south of 60 N
  3. Transition from Dry to Wet Zone
  4. Transition to Desert Zone
  5. Desert Zone – Tropic Circle and 30N
  6. Transition to Desert Zone
  7. Transition from Wet to Dry Zone
  8. Very Wet Zone – Equator
  9. Transition from Wet to Dry Zone
  10. Transition to Desert Zone
  11. Desert Zone – Tropic Circle and 30S
  12. Transition to Desert Zone
  13. Transition from Dry to Wet Zone
  14. Wet Zone – Mostly north of 60 S
  15. Artic/Polar Region – South of Artic Circle

And here’s a triangular map/abstraction that crosses those bands of humidity with evapotranspiration, precipitation, and biotemperature, giving us several different hexagonal life zones:

Okay, good beginning. The world alternates dry-wet-dry-wet-etc., from top to bottom. And different hot or cold regions combine with dryness and wetness to produce life zones such as rain forests, tundras, deserts, and thorn steppes. But what really matters to me, in the end, are animals and plants. Let’s get more specific by examining the earth’s biomes, as they stand today.

I’ll use the schema used by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF):

  1. Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests (tropical and subtropical, humid)
  2. Tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests (tropical and subtropical, semihumid)
  3. Tropical and subtropical coniferous forests (tropical and subtropical, semihumid)
  4. Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests (temperate, humid)
  5. Temperate coniferous forests (temperate, humid to semihumid)
  6. Boreal forests/taiga (subarctic, humid)
  7. Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands (tropical and subtropical, semiarid)
  8. Temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands (temperate, semiarid)
  9. Flooded grasslands and savannas (temperate to tropical, fresh or brackish water inundated)
  10. Montane grasslands and shrublands (alpine or montane climate)
  11. Tundra (Arctic)
  12. Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub or sclerophyll forests (temperate warm, semihumid to semiarid with winter rainfall)
  13. Deserts and xeric shrublands (temperate to tropical, arid)
  14. Mangrove (subtropical and tropical, salt water inundated)

These Furious Fourteen are only the terrestrial biomes—there are marine and freshwater ones as well, but since none of our PCs have an interest in aqua-campaigns, we can ignore both sets of hydro-biomes for now. (This despite the importance of the kelp forests for food and hadal [trench-living] extremophiles for fuel, in Tephnian times.) Let’s just point out that marine biomes = cover more than 70% of the surface of the earth.

What we can do for now is eliminate a few biomes. In the hotter, more extremely wet-or-dry future, there is almost no tundra, nor much taiga. There are, however—per any good mutant future—three new biomes: the mycoforest (fungal jungle), the salt waste, and the nu sea (algal or “infected” sea—usually dry or bog like; includes amoeboid/hungry lakes).

That gives us a new list (with some shortening of descriptors). I’ve indicated next to each future-biome how many dinosaurs (&c.) you can expect to find there, when you visit:

  1. Tropical moist broadleaf forests – hell of dinosaurs
  2. Tropical dry broadleaf forests – hell of dinosaurs
  3. Tropical coniferous forests – the most dinosaurs
  4. Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests – some dinosaurs
  5. Temperate coniferous forests – some dinosaurs
  6. Tropical  savannas – hell of dinosaurs
  7. Temperate savannas – hell of fast dinosaurs
  8. Flooded savannas – hell of crocodilians
  9. Montane grasslands – a few sad-looking eyeless antelopes
  10. Mediterranean forests – some dinosaurs, all of whom are skinny and laid back
  11. Deserts – not many dinosaurs, but lots of mega-arthropods, esp. scorpions – also, everything that you find in this biome is hell of pissed off, all the time
  12. Mangrove – hell of crocodilians… and shark men
  13. Mycoforests – hell of “spore dinosaurs” AKA mycobronts, not to mention a few confused rif (“greens“)
  14. Salt wastes – almost no life… almost
  15. Nu sea – only nu life adapted to survive on the mutant dry-sea of algae (actually, overlapping commensal colonies of fungi, bacteria, and algae)

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