What is Your Favorite Ecosystem, or Biome?

After reading Observing entire ecosystems by @mnharris, it made me contemplate more about ecosystems. Since people in iNaturalist live all around the world, they experience different biomes and climates, as well as observing the different organisms which live in these ecosystems. This, along with their line of work, may affect people’s preference for a certain ecosystem or biome. So what is your favorite ecosystem, or biome? To make this more fun and engaging, this question is not limited to just real life ecosystems and biomes.

Considering that I have lived in a cold environment for most of my life, I prefer to live in colder environments. After moving, it seems weird now that I will never be able to see it snow again. Just watching the snowflakes fall is always mesmerizing. I also like seeing woody areas on the highway; they captures my imagination of what could be possibly be living there. An owl, a deer? Additionally, since my father lived in Colorado for a while, I hear stories of how crisp and clean the air is in the mountains. I was able to witness the Colorado Rocky Mountains first hand when the family had to travel there. The mountains just looming over you. The gentle sound of streams and rivers flowing. An occasional zephyr moving the trees. And it snows! With all of the aforementioned remarks, I feel like if I had to pick a favorite biome/ecosystem to live in, I would like to live in the mountains. Sure. There are blizzards, but how else is everything going to look like a Narnian Winter Wonderland?

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I miss my precious Mediterranean deserts. And I absolutely love and admire the resilience and diversity of desert life. There’s nothing like it. Dry scrublands are my next favourite.

Since I’ve moved back to New Jersey after five years in the Middle East, I’m not having a great time getting used to the cold again.
On the other hand, it’s fun exploring completely novel biomes over in NJ. There’s precious little wetland to speak of in Israel, so virtually every single organism in a wetland is new to me.

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I am going to have to go with the obvious, easy answer.

I like the beach! Both from a scientific viewpoint because there is a large diversity of species to see, and that you can move a few dozen feet and see an entirely different group of species. And also, of course, from the point of view of aesthetics, the ocean and cliffs and long beaches are just nice to look at.

Of course, when I actually have lived close to the ocean, I have lost my appreciation of it quickly—it is different when you see it every day. I would still say that it would be my first choice, though.

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I lived all my life in cold climate - six months winter, and the rest is cold (bit different now, with climate change, but still), so I love to go to the places as warm as it goes. Having lived all my life in flat and small country (you stand on a chair and can see the capital of Latvia), I like the huge diversity of the world. So it seems difficult to choose. But there is one habitat, which attracts me wherever it can be found: tide pools.

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You made me wonder if everyone is (more or less) drawn to the environment they were raised in. I grew up in temperate northeastern U.S. and it’s that forest ecosystem that draws me the most. When I was young I had fantasies about southwestern deserts and tropical islands, but when I grew up and was able to travel, ultimately found them great places to visit without wanting to live there!

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Well, my favorite ecosystem is one that is relatively close to where I live, the páramos, that cold ecosystem but that houses a large amount of biodiversity that manages to adapt to these extreme conditions, such as the frailejones, one of the most iconic plants in the Northem Andes. Look at this beautiful photo of a frailejón that I took a week ago.

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CS Lewis studied in my hometown, and its gas lamps were an inspiration for Narnia! :)
https://www.malvernbeacon.com/home/gas-lamps-cs-lewis-and-jrr-tolkien
Snow here at the moment too as it happens…a winter wonderland indeed.
So I agree - home sweet home. …can’t beat the place you grow up.

That said, UK biodiversity is relatively poor, so I must admit, I envy folks in more exotic climes when it comes to iNatting. And living now in the somewhat Narnia-esque Iceland much of the year, I also tend to dream of being somewhere hot and sunny. So beaches and deserts also get my votes :)
I loved getting to know the niche flora and fauna we get on sand dunes here in UK this summer.

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I went to the Mojave Desert for the first time in 2014 and it was totally life changing for me. Love the tiny plants and many herps, as well as the desolate rock formations. Bonus: no ticks or mosquitos!

I was able to visit the páramos in Ecuador last year, and it was incredible! The plants were amazing.

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Northern Ecuador? Up by El Ángel?

I took a bunch of photos of them back in 2005 and wrote about them and the ecosystem a few years later.

It’s a pretty amazing environment it grows in.

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No, I took these in Duitama, Colombia.

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I don’t know that it would be possible for me to pick a single favorite ecosystem, so many have massive appeal, but for different reasons.

Among my favorites are:

  • The oak savannas of California
  • The NW coastal US forests with the mix of bay laurel, madrone, Douglas fir, alder, evergreen huckleberry, and the understory of ferns and moss
  • The patchwork muskeg of interior Alaska
  • The narrow riverside woodlands found in mountainous parts of the US southwest
  • The cloud forests in the Andes
  • The high elevation gallery forests in the paramó
  • Lowland Amazonian rainforest, right at the base of the Andes where it’s transitioning from a hilly environment to a flat one
  • Tropical monsoon karst jungle (even if it is really difficult to get around in)
  • Coral reefs
  • Rocky sea shores with lots of tidepools and cliffs
  • Coastal grasslands with lots of wildflowers like those found in Scotland and northern California
  • Mangrove forests, especially those in Florida and in western Borneo/Kalimantan

Honestly, the list would be far shorter if I listed my least favorite ecosystems, and even that would be difficult to do.

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I am in awe of the litorral zone ecosystem …saltwater…where ever it has been untouched or minimally influenced by human presence. For its diversity, density, stratification, compactness, and complexity. If there was ever a multi-phylum challenge, this seems to be the place to go.

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It’s very difficult to choose, since each ecosystem has something interesting to see. Purely for sentimental reasons, I would choose the forests on the hills of Hong Kong. Many many hours were spent there walking around, searching for all sorts of creatures (mostly butterflies though)

A panorama photo from the top, after coming out from the trees:

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I suppose it’s a bit of a cop-out but my favourite ecosystem is the one I find myself in at any point. I was born and raised in and around the boreal forest zone. I have many beautiful memories of canoeing marshy lakes surrounded by granite and jack pine. The smell of pine pitch and the song of white-throated sparrows evoke powerful emotions for me. I guess that’s one way of defining favourite. The whiskeyjack is my favourite bird. On the other hand I’ve always felt compelled to see new things.

I am drawn to water and I love snorkelling and diving. Coral reefs are spectacular but freshwater wetlands are pretty cool too (nesting bowfins are a fave).

In my twenties and thirties I spent a few years living and working in Botswana and Namibia. You couldn’t ask for a more different place relative to where I was born and I was fascinated by pretty much every ecological nook and cranny there from the wetlands of Chobe and the Okavango, the oshanas of Ovamboland and the seals of the Skeleton Coast to the dunes and rocks of Namib-Naukluft and the central Kalahari. I was encountering things that changed how I think about the world. I mean Stenocara_dentata?

Anyway, give me a couple of field guides, binoculars and maybe a mask and snorkel and I’m a happy old guy pretty much anywhere.

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No. I was raised in New England; and although I do miss the landscape there, I keep being drawn back to the tropical rainforests I always dreamed of. I get antsy and upset when I am away from them too long, as if I am wasting my life.

Not for me, it isn’t. I still do not understand people who are content to live in continental interiors where the coast is more than day-trip distance away. I have driven back and forth across the United States, seen the grandeur of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, but I don’t linger there.

One of Marston Bates’ books was titled The Forest and the Sea, and that is a love triangle I find myself caught in – trying to remember which of those two was my “first love.” Tropical rainforests, or seacoasts? I like places where both are in close proximity. When I envision my idea of paradise, I picture living with the ocean on one side, and a lush tropical rainforest on the other.

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Well, I feel the opposite right now.
It is currently December in Western Oregon, it gets dark around 4:30, and it has rained around six inches in the last 30 days. (Which is actually not that much rain). The trees are leafless, most of the birds and insects are gone, and things are rather dull. As much as I appreciate this time on some level…

Right now I am thinking about an arid climate in the summer, how everything feels and smells different.

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Right now it’s snowing here, there’s about 45 cm accumulation on my lawn, the snowbank in front of the house is about even with my head. On the other hand, the black flies, mosquitoes and ticks are tolerable this time of year.

I have a particular affinity for the diversity and endemism of the mixed desert shrub associations found in the transition zone between the creosote bush scrub of the Mojave Desert, and the sagebrush scrub of the Great Basin Desert, in south-central Nevada and adjacent eastern California and western Utah. Hard to beat the landscape too, with elevations from below sea level to over 4000 meters.

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You made me wonder if everyone is (more or less) drawn to the environment they were raised in.

Nope. I grew up in Kansas, and I can’t help but think that the Great Plains couldn’t be any more boring if they tried. Perhaps it’s a reactionary sort of thing, but I love the mountains and the forests best of all.

Personally speaking, the most interesting biomes and ones I am drawn to are those with high biodiversity and high levels of megafauna.

I have had the fortune of experiencing firsthand both in childhood and adulthood the wonder and sheer awe of seeing biodiverse nature: the bushveld with all its assorted denizens (from lions and elephants to savanna-dwelling birds like hornbills to baobab trees), and my more local area which has the Cape Floral Kingdom, the only floral kingdom virtually restricted within a single country - the varied and unique fynbos comprising proteas, Erica, restios, and many bulb species among others, and fauna including African penguins.

It really is regrettable that in today’s modern era we have not seen the original ecological interactions between the unique fynbos and the megafauna that would have occurred in it (lions, black rhinos and elephants) before the European settlers exterminated them from the region. This would have been a scientific trove of information.

For similar reasons I am fascinated by the Pleistocene and Holocene ecosystems that in geological terms took place just yesterday: mammoths, mastodons, Smilodon, glyptodonts, ground sloths, the California tapir, straight-tusked elephant, Merck’s rhinoceros, cave lion and cave hyena, short-faced bear, Diprotodon and Megalania, terrestrial mekosuchine crocodiles, elephant birds, moas and Haast’s eagles … the list goes on.

I think that every biome has an aspect or characteristic that makes it beautiful and/or interesting. It may just need some time to understand/see it.

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