A vector map of the world’s terrestrial biotic units: subbiomes, biomes, ecozones and domains
expand article infoJavier Loidi, Gonzalo Navarro-Sánchez§, Denys Vynokurov|
‡ University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Bilbao, Spain
§ Bolivian Catholic University, Cochabamba, Bolivia
| M.G. Kholodny Institute of Botany, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine
Open Access


A vector map of biotic units encompassing the entire terrestrial area of the earth is provided. It contains a hierarchical system of domains, ecozones, biomes and subbiomes, as a large-scale description of the terrestrial ecosystems. The map can be used for different analysis, including monitoring of climate change.


biogeography, biome, biotic unit, climate, domain, Earth, ecozone, GIS vector map, subbiome


In a previous paper, we proposed a classification of biotic units (biomes sensu lato) which encompasses the entire terrestrial area of our planet and helps to explain and understand the general patterns of its biodiversity (Loidi et al. 2022). Here, we provide a digital map of these biotic units to be used for different analysis and climate change monitoring.

The map was created and used in the work on the climatic definitions of the world’s terrestrial biomes (Loidi et al. 2022). It contains a hierarchic system of large biotic units: 4 domains (Cryocratic, Mesocratic, Xerocratic and Thermocratic), divided into 7 ecozones, 9 biomes and 20 subbiomes.

Description of the vector map

The map contains GIS vector layers (in a zip archive) with polygons classified to the level of subbiomes, biomes, ecozones and domains. Polygons have been drawn manually using QGIS software (QGIS Development Team 2009). Formats are as follows: GeoJSON, ESRI shapefile, Keyhole Markup Language (KML), QGIS Layer settings file. Coordinate reference system (CRS): EPSG:4326 - WGS 84; Charset Encoding: UTF-8.

The attribute table contains the following fields: fid (polygon id), subbiome (code of subbiome), biome (code of biome), ecozone (code of ecozone), domain (code of domain), area_km2 (area of a polygon in km2 in a World Cylindrical Equal Area projection, ESRI: 54034), subbiome_n (name of subbiome), biome_n (name of biome), ecozone_n (name of ecozone), domain_n (name of domain).

Distribution of the subbiomes across the world in the Mollweide projection is presented in Figure 1. Names and codes of the domains, ecozones, biomes and subbiomes are given in Table 1.

The largest subbiome of the Earth is 8b Tropical pluviseasonal forests and woodlands (21,532,324.6 km2 or 16.2%), followed by 2a Lowland boreal Taiga (16,964,468.7 km2 or 12.7%) and 9a Tropical rain forests (15,042,477 km2 or 11.3%). Among the biomes, the largest is 8 Biome of the tropical pluviseasonal forests and shrublands (29,576,514.8 km2 or 22.2%), followed by 7 Biome of the deserts and semi-deserts of arid regions (26,046,887.6 km2 or 19.6%) and 2 Biome of the boreal forest (19,716,082.4 km2 or 14.8%). On the highest hierarchical level, the main biotic units are domains. The Cryocratic Domain occupies 23.2% of the land surface, Mexocratic 23.7%, Xerocratic 19.6%, and Thermocratic 33.5%, making Thermocratic the largest domain on the Earth.

Figure 1. 

Distribution of the 20 subbiomes across the world (Mollweide projection) with country borders.

Table 1.

Domains, Ecozones, Biomes and Subbiomes of the Earth.

Domains Ecozones Biomes Subbiomes Area in km2 Area in %
A. Cryocratic Domain of the cold climates AA. Polar and boreal ecozone 1. Biome of the tundra 1a. Polar tundra 7918667.27 5.94401492
1b. Tundras of the temparate mountains in cryoro belt 2538587.22 1.90554796
1c. Tundras of the tropical mountains in cryoro belt 798810.781 0.59961393
2. Biome of the boreal forest 2a. Lowland boreal Taiga 16964468.7 12.7340942
2b. Forests and shrublands of the temperate oro belt 2751613.61 2.06545266
B. Mesocratic Domain of the temperate climates (incl. tropical mountains) BA. Temperate ombroestival ecozone 3. Biome of the temperate deciduous forests 3a. Temperate deciduous forests 10545548.1 7.91583899
4. Biome of the temperate pluvial evergreen forest, shrublands and grasslands 4a. Lauroid evergreen forest of the lowlands 4465646.76 3.35206292
4b. Conifer coastal forests 207387.739 0.15567213
4c. Tropical montane cloud lauroid and conifer evergreen forest 2316614.12 1.73892758
BB. Temperate aridiestival ecozone 5. Biome of the temperate aridiestival evergreen forests and shrublands 5a. Oceanic scleropyllous-microphyllous evergreen forests and shrublands (Mediterranean) 2202248.53 1.65308096
5b. Continental scrub and woodlands 2755406.8 2.06829995
5c. Patagonian shrubland 1065122.51 0.79951637
BC. Temperate hipercontinental steppic ecozone 6. Biome of the steppe 6a. Forest-steppe 2879666.73 2.16157358
6b. Grass-steppe 5145181.96 3.86214463
C. Xerocratic Domain of the arid climates CA. Ecozone of the deserts and semi-deserts of arid regions 7. Biome of the deserts and semi-deserts of arid regions 7a. Cold deserts and semi-deserts 5553316.37 4.16850389
7b. Temperate deserts and semi-deserts 10136823.5 7.60903673
7c. Warm deserts and semi-deserts 10356747.7 7.77411917
D. Thermocratic Domain of the warm climates DA. Tropical pluviseasonal, rainy and dry seasons 8. Biome of the tropical pluviseasonal forests and shrublands 8a. Tropical xeric shrublands and woodlands 8044190.16 6.03823658
8b. Tropical pluvisesonal forests and woodlands 21532324.6 16.1628787
DB. Tropical pluvial, rainy all the year round ecozone 9. Biome of the tropical rain forests 9a. Tropical rain forests 15042478 11.2913841


  • Loidi J, Navarro-Sánchez G, Vynokurov D (2022) Climatic definitions of the world’s terrestrial biomes. Vegetation Classification and Survey 3: 231–271.
  • QGIS Development Team (2009) QGIS Geographic Information System. Open Source Geospatial Foundation.

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Supplementary material

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 

Vector map biomes

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