The Physcial Environment and Distributions

Changes in the Physical Environment

Explain the role that the physical environment plays in determining the distributions of organisms.

Every region of the world is made unique by its specific climate conditions. Climate is defined as the long-term weather patterns in an area, which includes the average and variation in temperature, moisture, sunlight and wind. When it comes to the effect of climate on organisms, the annual averages and variations in temperature and moisture or precipitation are the most important. Biomes are areas of the globe that generally face the same physical conditions and therefore consist of similar organism communities. These include tropical wet forests, subtropical deserts, temperate grasslands, temperate forests, boreal forests and arctic tundras.

So what is organism distribution? Organism distribution is the description of a species’s location. It includes the number of individuals, their range and their density across the globe. The physical environment plays a huge role in determining the distribution of organisms because specific metabolic, physiological, morphological and behavioral adaptations are necessary to survive in specific conditions. Metabolic traits of an organism, which includes how the organism obtains energy, can be effected by the amount of sunlight the area receives daily. Only organisms with physiological adaptations to regulate extreme temperature conditions can thrive in areas of extreme temperature. Morphological traits, which have to do with the organism’s structure, will determine if an organism can survive in areas with strong winds. Behavioral trends in a species can also effect an organism’s ability to cope with changes in environmental conditions. When seasons change, some animals hibernate while others migrate to areas of different temperatures. The physical environment, therefore, regulates the types of traits and adaptations necessary for organisms to thrive there, and in turn decides the location, range and density of species.

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