How Local & Regional Factors Impact Vegetation

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  • 0:01 Vegetation Across the World
  • 0:26 Regional Factors
  • 2:12 Local Factors
  • 3:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After watching this video, you should be able to explain some of the local and regional factors that affect the amount and types of vegetation at a particular place. A short quiz will follow.

Vegetation Across the World

The world has many different environments, and all of them have their own kinds of vegetation, or plants. We have deserts, mountains, tundra, evergreen (or coniferous) forests, deciduous forests, wetlands and everything in between. But what makes those areas what they are? Today we're going to talk about the regional and local factors that affect the vegetation in an area.

Regional Factors

Temperature is a major regional factor that affects vegetation. Some areas are cold, and some are hot. And some vegetation is just more suited to a particular temperature than others. If you were to take most plants at the Equator and place them at the North Pole, they would die, and the same is true if you took arctic plants and placed them where it's hot.

Temperature is hugely important and is the main factor affecting plant growth. Plants near the Equator generally grow at a much faster rate than plants near the poles. This is because they receive a lot of energy from the sun - the sun is above them, beaming rays directly onto them, for much more of the year. So, in general, you'll find dense vegetation near the Equator. Tropical rainforests, for example, are super dense and contain huge amounts of biodiversity. Near the poles, the sun's rays are much less concentrated. But there is one other regional factor that can stop this dense growth, no matter how much sunlight there may be: water, or to be more specific, precipitation (rain or snow).

Precipitation isn't as important for plants to grow as sunlight is, but it's still important. Precipitation is more likely whenever air masses approach each other, causing hot air to rise over cold air. The Equator is also the home to a lot of precipitation. But sometimes regional climates stop these air masses from reaching each other, which creates a desert. For example, the Sahara desert gets plenty of sunlight, but vegetation is sparse because there's hardly any rainfall. The Earth's weather patterns are complex; but, put simply, the moisture from the Sahara desert evaporates under the heat of the sun and falls as rain in other parts of the world.

Local Factors

There are also local factors that affect the vegetation in an area. The altitude is one such factor. As altitude goes up, several things change: it gets colder, soil gets poorer and the air gets thinner. There are cold mountains like Kilimanjaro, even at the Equator. So, the exact topology of the land - the peaks and troughs - also has an impact on the vegetation.

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