Land Biomes: Temperate Forests

Temperate Deciduous Forest
Temperate Deciduous Forest in Autumn. De Agostini/C. Sappa/De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images

The temperate forest biome is one of the world's major habitats. Temperate forests are characterized as regions with high levels of precipitation, humidity, and a variety of deciduous trees. Deciduous trees are trees that lose their leaves in winter. Decreasing temperatures and shortened daylight hours in fall mean decreased photosynthesis for plants. Thus, these trees shed their leaves in fall and bud new leaves in spring when warmer temperatures and longer hours of daylight return.

Climate

Temperate forests have a wide range of temperatures that correlate with the distinctive seasons. Temperatures range from hot in the summer, with highs of 86 degrees Fahrenheit, to extremely cold in the winter, with lows of -22 degrees Fahrenheit.

Temperate forests receive abundant amounts of precipitation, usually between 20 and 60 inches of precipitation annually. This precipitation is in the form of rain and snow.

Location

Deciduous forests are typically found in the Northern Hemisphere. Some locations of temperate forests include:

  • Eastern Asia
  • Central and Western Europe
  • Eastern United States

Vegetation

Due to abundant rainfall and thick soil humus, temperate forests are able to support a wide variety of plant life and vegetation. This vegetation exists in several layers, ranging from lichens and mosses on the ground layer to large tree species like oak and hickory that stretch high above the forest floor. Other examples of temperate forest vegetation include:

  • Forest canopy tier: Maple trees, walnut trees, birch trees
  • Small tree tier: Dogwoods, redbuds, shadbush
  • Shrub tier: Azaleas, mountain laurel, huckleberries
  • Herb tier: Blue bead lily, Indian cucumber, wild sarsaparilla
  • Floor tier: Lichens and mosses

Mosses are nonvascular plants that play an important ecological role in the biomes they inhabit. These small, dense plants often resemble green carpets of vegetation. They thrive in moist areas and help to prevent soil erosion and also serve as a source of insulation during colder months. Unlike mosses, lichens are not plants. They are the result of symbiotic relationships between algae or cyanobacteria and fungi. Lichens are important decomposers in this environment that is littered with decaying plant material. Lichens help to recycle plant leaves, thus generating the fertile soil in this biome.

Wildlife

Temperate forests are home to a wide variety of animals. These animals include various insects and spiders, wolves, foxes, bears, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, eagles, rabbits, deer, skunks, squirrels, raccoons, squirrels, moose, snakes, and hummingbirds.

Temperate forest animals have many different ways to deal with the cold and lack of food in winter. Some animals hibernate during the winter and arise in spring when food is more plentiful. Other animals store food and burrow underground to escape the cold. Many animals escape the harsh conditions by migrating to warmer regions in winter.

Other animals have adapted to this environment by blending in with the forest. Some camouflage themselves as leaves, looking almost indistinguishable from the foliage. This type of adaptation comes in handy for both predators and prey.

More Land Biomes

Temperate forests are one of many biomes. Other land biomes of the world include:

  • Chaparrals: Characterized by dense shrubs and grasses, this biome experiences dry summers and damp winters.
  • Deserts: Did you know that not all deserts are hot? In fact, Antarctica is the largest desert in the world.
  • Savannas: This large grassland biome is home to some of the fastest animals on the planet.
  • Taigas: Also called coniferous forests, this biome is populated by dense evergreen trees.
  • Temperate grasslands: These open grasslands are located in colder climate regions than savannas. They are found on every continent except for Antarctica.
  • Tropical rain forests: Located near the equator, this biome experiences hot temperatures year round.
  • Tundra: As the coldest biome in the world, tundras are characterized by extremely cold temperatures, permafrost, treeless landscapes, and slight precipitation.