Temperate Deciduous Forest
Temperate deciduous forests are also called temperate broad-leaf forests. The main characteristic of such forests is that the trees lose their leaves annually. The forests are mainly found around the latitude areas, therefore, are positioned between polar and tropic regions. The areas where the forests thrive are exposed to cold and warm air, making the areas to experience all the four seasons. The temperature levels vary from one season to another with cold winters and hot or wet summers.
The forests experience an estimated temperature of up to 10 Degrees Celsius a year. On the other hand, they also receive an annual rainfall of between 750 to 1500 mm which is spread across the regions covered by the forests (Johansson, 2004). As the trees prepare for winter, they change their colors and start dropping their leaves. This mechanism is applied for survival in such harsh conditions. Other significant adaptations to the cold winters are becoming insignificant by the day. The barks of the trees are also very thick to protect them from the cold weather. These trees grow and flower during summer and spring when the weather is not very harsh. Some of the plants that are mainly found in temperate deciduous forests include shrubs, trees, and herbs that have broader leaves. The term deciduous refers to falling off or being cut out at a particular season. That is why it is used in the definition of forests whereby the plants’ leaves fall off during winter.
These forests are mainly found in temperate zones, which usually occupy the upper parts of the tropical forests and below the coniferous forests. According to the world’s map, they appear on most parts of Europe, eastern parts of North America, Asia and in some parts of Japan. However, these forests seem to be slowly getting phased off in most of these areas. This may be influenced by human activity and climate change. The regions where these forests thrive usually have rich soils and are, therefore, good for agriculture. This points out as to why there are very few natural deciduous forests left as many have been wiped out to give room for farming. For example, almost all of the forests in North America have been replaced by second-growth forests. In other parts of the European continent, only handful natural forests are left since most of them have been cleared for agricultural activities. Other temperate forests are found in Eastern parts of North America where they are mainly located along 35 to 48 Degrees North. On the other parts of Europe and Asia, they range between 45 to 60 Degrees North (Reich & Frelich). However, there are some deciduous forests in the southern hemisphere even though the plants and animals that are found in those areas are different from the ones found in the northern deciduous forests.
Types of Plants
These regions are mainly occupied by eucalyptus trees, fir, pine, spruce, cypress and giant sequoia. The forests are characterized by their hardy trees that have the ability of survival in harsh weather conditions. Deciduous forests have five zones. The first zone is known as the tree stratum zone which contains trees like oak, maple, chestnut hickory, elm, basswood, walnut and sweet gum trees. The trees that are found in these are found in this zone have a height ranging from 60 to 100 feet. The second zone is known as the sapling and has small, young and short trees. The third zone is known as shrub zone that consists of shrubs like azaleas, rhododendrons, huckleberries and mountain laurel (Orme, D & Penny, 2006). The fourth zone is called the herb zone which is mainly made up of herbal plants. The last zone is the ground zone that contains lichen, club mosses, and true mosses. The leaves of most of the trees and other plants found these forests change their color during autumn while in winter, they drop the leaves. These plants have found various ways of adapting to the climatic condition of the place through leaning towards the sun and storing up nutrients in the ground for use during extreme weather.
Types of Animals
There are various kinds of animals that can be found in temperate deciduous forests. Some of the common ones are slugs, insects, spiders, turtles, and salamanders. The forests are also home to broad-winged hawks, snowy owls, Pileated woodpeckers, and cardinals. Besides, it also has mammals like raccoons, white-tailed deer, opossum, red foxes, and porcupines. All these animals have the ability to adapt to the changing climatic conditions of the zones. However, there are some that hibernate while others migrate to areas with favorable habitats during extreme conditions (Jeffrey, 2001).
Economic Significance of temperate deciduous forests
Temperate deciduous forests have many benefits. One is that they are renowned for their diversity, making them suitable to be ideal habitats for many plant and animal species. The forests are home to many small animals and reptiles like salamanders. Besides, many bird species are also found in these forests, especially during summer. Since there are many trees, streams that are found here are reliant on these trees to prevent contamination. This is beneficial to the life in these streams especially the fishes because if there is a high level of contamination, the animals and plants that reside therein might die. Thus, both animals and plants found in the areas covered by these forests contribute towards the balancing of the ecosystem. When the trees shed off their leaves, they are fed on by the bacteria and fungi. Besides, the leaves and the fungi are also eaten by some insects, which in turn are also food to the fishes. In the long run, the fish provide a good source of for humans and other animals (World Biomes, 2013).
Trees that grow in the temperate forests provide good lumber, used in the manufacture of wood products and construction of houses. The forests also provide ideal sites for hiking and camping. In some countries, they are preserved as state and national parks. Therefore, they also provide employment to the people who reside in those areas. Temperate deciduous forests are also a good source of herbal medicine and have been widely used in the medical fields with most herbs having been found to offer treatment to various ailments. Quite a number of industries have been set up as a result of the resources from the forests of timber that are of great use to them. The areas covered by these forests are also good for agriculture since the soil and climate are favorable. According to the locals who reside near the areas covered by these forests, they are also good for grazing livestock.
Threats to temperate forests
There are various threats to the existence of temperate forests. One of the main ones is global warming which has steadily contributed to the increase in greenhouse gases effect. The greenhouse impact causes a rise in the earth’s temperature, which results in the desertification and loss of biodiversity. Because of the emergence of industries, there has been an upsurge in the cases of logging, which creates deforestation. People also continuously cut down trees for construction of homes, farming and building of resorts. Other threats to the forests also include mining and illegal harvesting of plants and animals like poaching (Nature Works, 2013).
Temperate deciduous forests are among the world’s greatest treasures that have significant impacts on humans, plants, and animals. Thus, there is a need for the protection of these forests in order to ensure a balanced ecosystem.
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