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A forest is an area of land with many trees. Many animals need forests to live and survive. Forests are very important and grow in many places around the world. They are an ecosystem which includes many plants and animals.
Temperature and rainfall are the two of the most important things for forests. Forests can exist from the equator to near the polar regions, but the character of the forest differs greatly. In cold climates conifers dominate, but in temperate and tropical climates forests are mainly of flowering plants. Rainfall is also a major factor. No forests exist in deserts, just a few trees in places where their roots can get at some underground water.
The weather during the winter is cold, but the snow melts completely in the spring, turning some parts of the forest into swamps. There are only eight types of trees in the coniferous forests, including balsams, firs, and black spruce. There are not many different types of trees in coniferous forests because of the cold weather, and the poor soil. Fallen branches, needles, and dead animals do not decay as fast as in warmer regions. This is why the soil in coniferous forests is not very fertile. Also, only those trees that have adapted to cold weather and poor soil have been able to survive. These trees have flexible branches that support heavy snowfalls. Less water evaporates from their leaves because of the shape of their needles.
Many coniferous trees shade large parts of the soil below them, which keeps many plants from growing on the forest ground. Some animals that live in the coniferous forests are pine martens, deer, bears, caribou, moose, lynxes, beavers, and birds such as grey owls, crossbills, and warblers.
Deciduous forests grow in North America, Europe, and Asia. They have a moderate climate during the spring, summer, fall and winter, with rainfall of at least 500mm a year. Summers are warm and winters are cold, but not as cold as the northern coniferous forests. In the winter, snow covers the ground and all the deciduous trees and plants lose their leaves. The decaying leaves help make the soil rich in nutrients. Many insects, spiders, snails, and worms make their homes in this rich soil. Wild flowers and ferns grow almost everywhere in the spring. New leaves capture the energy of the sun and sprout before the tall trees grow too thick to let the sun reach them. During the winter, birds migrate, snakes and frogs hibernate, and raccoons spend the coldest months sleeping in their dens. Raccoons will only come out of their dens when the weather is warm.
Some of the other animals also hibernate or simply slow down their metabolism and eat food they stored during the summer and fall months. The trees in the winter are brave, but with the coming of spring, leaves sprout, birds return, animals are born, and all the forest animals get busy with their lives. Animals that we may see in this biome are bears, white tail deer, raccoons, otters, beavers, fox, frogs, squirrels, snakes, salamanders, eagles, and birds such as woodpeckers, robins, and blue jays.
Tropical rainforests grow in South America, Congo, Indonesia and some nearby countries, Hawaii, and eastern Australia. Tropical rain forests are aptly named, as it rains here on about half the days. The only season in a tropical rain forest is summer, so plants grow for all 12 months of the year. Trees are tall and thick in the rain forest and they grow so close together that they seem to form a big umbrella of greenery called a canopy. This blocks out most of the sunlight. The air is muggy as it filters through the dense canopy cover of the trees. The light that filters through this tree cover is dim and green. Only along river banks and in places that have been cleared does enough sunlight allow plants to grow on the forest ground.
Millions of species of plants and animals live in the world's tropical forests. Life in the rain forest exists at different levels or layers in the trees. Each of these layers have a special name, such as 'emergent', 'canopy', 'understory', and 'forest floor. Animal life is found on all levels.
Many forests are being cut down for their wood. This cutting down of forests is called deforestation and it is causing damage to the natural habitat of animals. Even roads have been built for the peoples to pass though the forest to reach their destination.
- Blue Planet. McGrawHill. 2010.