Types of Forests

Tropical Rainforest

Location: The tropical rainforests contain the greatest diversity of species of all biomes on earth. They are found around the equator, between 23.5 degrees N latitude and 23.5 degrees S latitude.

Climate: Temperatures in tropical rainforests remain between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit all year long. Winter is absent in these forests. Most tropical rainforests receive 100 inches of rain per year.

Soil: Because the temperature is warm and the air moist, decomposition happens at a very fast rate in tropical rainforests. High levels of rainfall often lead to leaching of nutrients from the soil, creating soils that are nutrient poor.

Plants: Trees in the tropical rainforests grow between 82 and 115 feet tall and are typically broad-leafed trees. Other plants include ferns, vines, mosses, palms and orchids.

Animals: Dense growing trees create a thick canopy layer in tropical rainforests that keep the sun from penetrating to the lower layers of the forest. This means that most animals that live here must be adapted to living in the trees. A variety of birds, bats, monkeys, snakes and other animals can be found in tropical rainforests.

Threats: The biggest threat to tropical rainforests is unsustainable forestry practices. Other threats include road construction, clearing land for agriculture and other development activities and climate change.


Temperate Deciduous Forest

Location: Eastern United States and Canada, Western Europe and parts of Russia, China and Japan.

Climate: There are four distinct seasons in temperate deciduous forests and precipitation falls throughout the year, as rain in the spring, summer and fall and snow in the winter. Temperate deciduous forests receive 30-60 inches of rain per year.

Soil: The soil in these forests is very fertile.

Plants: The forest floor in temperate deciduous forests supports mosses, ferns and wildflowers and the understory supports a variety of shrubs and ferns. Maple, oak and birch trees are some examples of the deciduous trees that dominate these forests. There are also small numbers of evergreen trees such as pines and fir.

Animals: Animals living in temperate deciduous forests must be adapted to cold winters. Common species found in temperate deciduous forests include, red fox, hawks, woodpecker and cardinals.

Threats: Acid rain caused by industrial and vehicular emissions poses the biggest threat to temperate deciduous forests. Over time, acid rain damages tree leaves, causes trees to produce fewer and smaller seeds and reduces resistance to disease. Other threats include unsustainable forestry, strip mining and the spread of invasive, non-native species that compete for space and food. Climate change is also a threat.


Temperate Coniferous Forest

Location: Temperate coniferous forests are typically found in coastal areas with mild winters and heavy rainfall or in in-land mountainous areas with mild climates. Examples of where these forests are found are Pacific Northwestern United States and Canada, southwestern South America, Southern Japan, New Zealand and small parts of northwestern Europe (Ireland, Scotland, Iceland and Norway).

Climate: Temperate climate with temperature that fluctuates little throughout the year. High levels of precipitation (50-200 inches per year) cause a moist climate and a long growing season.

Soil: Soils are generally rich with a thick layer of decaying material.

Plants: Evergreen conifers dominate these forests. Due to the high levels of precipitation and moderate temperatures, there is a long growing season, resulting in trees that grow very tall. Dominant tree species found in temperate coniferous forests include cedar, cypress, Douglas fir, pine, spruce and redwood. There are some deciduous trees such as maple, and mosses and ferns are common.

Animals: Examples of animals that live in temperate coniferous forests are, deer, marmot, elk, black bear, salmon, spotted owl, marbled murrelet

Threats: Unsustainable forestry, road construction and other development related activities are the biggest threat to temperate deciduous forests.


Boreal (taiga) Forest

Location: This is the northern most forest type and is found between 50 and 60 degrees N latitude. Boreal forests are found in Canada, northern Asia, Siberia and Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland). About two-thirds of the world's boreal forests are found in Scandinavia.

Climate: Boreal forests are characterized by long winters and short summers. Most precipitation is in the form of snow and these forests receive between 15 and 40 inches of precipitation per year.

Soil: Because of cold temperatures, decomposition takes a long time, resulting in thin soil.

Plants: Trees are mostly evergreen and include species such as spruce, fir and pine. The understory is limited because the canopy is so dense.

Animals: Animals found here must be adapted to long, cold winters and usually have thick fur. Deer, moose, elk, caribou, snowshoe hare, wolves, grizzly bears, lynxes and wolverines are some examples.