What is a Temperate Deciduous Forest?

Temperate Deciduous Forest Definition

A temperate deciduous forest is a biome with many deciduous trees that drop their leaves in autumn. These forests are also known as deciduous forests because the trees have wide, flat leaves.

Temperate deciduous forests are located in the mid-latitude regions of the world between the Arctic poles and the tropics. These biomes are exposed to warm and cold air masses, which gives them four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and autumn.

As winter approaches and daylight decreases, the production of chlorophyll in the leaves slows down and eventually stops, revealing the bright red, yellow, and orange colors we associate with autumn. About 65.5 million years ago, when the earth began to cool, temperate forests formed in the Cenozoic Era. Tropical and subtropical forests are the other types of deciduous forests.

temperate deciduous forest

Temperate Deciduous Forest Location

The Earth’s temperate deciduous forests (broadleaf forests) are the areas shown in light green on the map below. They are located in the eastern United States, China, Japan, Canada, and Europe.

temperate deciduous forest

Temperate Deciduous Forest Animals

Insects that live in deciduous temperate forests include ants, flies, bees, wasps, cicadas, walking sticks, moths, butterflies, dragonflies, mosquitoes, and praying mantises. Frogs, toads, snakes and salamanders are some of the reptile inhabitants of the temperate deciduous forest.

Birds found in this biome include woodpeckers, robins, jays, cardinals, owls, turkeys, hawks, and eagles. Smaller mammals in the temperate deciduous forests include rabbits, otters, monkeys, beavers, raccoons, porcupines, and squirrels. Bears, white-tailed deer, elk, tigers, elephants, giraffes, leopards, pandas, and humans are some of the larger mammals that live in this biome.

In the temperate deciduous forest, there is a food web that consists of several trophic (food) levels. Each trophic level has organisms that play the same role in the food web. They also share the same sources of energy.

The trophic levels and the organisms living in each of them are shown in the figure below. At the lowest level, the soil is full of earthworms, bacteria and fungi (called decomposers) that produce nutrients for organisms in the level above.

The second-tier primary producers use these nutrients and sunlight to produce energy through photosynthesis. The next stage has the main consumers, mostly herbivores, which the primary producers in the trophic level below consume.

In return, the primary consumers provide energy for the secondary consumers (carnivores and omnivores) on the next level. At the top level of the trophic food, the web lives the best carnivores, also called tertiary consumers. In addition, a quaternary trophic level can occur in more complex food webs. The food web ends when the animals on top have no natural predators.

Temperate Deciduous Forest Plants

Trees such as oak, birch, beech, aspen, elm and maple live in temperate deciduous forests. These tall trees form the forest canopy. Taller trees that protrude above the canopy are part of the resulting layer. After the canopy, the next layer is the undergrowth with smaller species of trees and younger trees that have not yet reached their full height.

The shrub layer is next and contains woody vegetation such as bushes and blackberries that grow in places where enough light can pass through the canopy. This is followed by the herb layer, which consists of soft-stemmed (herbaceous) plants such as wildflowers, ferns and grasses.

These plants have to be shade tolerant to live this far down in the forest. The last layer is the forest floor. This area of ​​the biome has a rich soil of decayed leaves, twigs, moss, and animal waste, also called litter. This is the recycling area of ​​the temperate deciduous forest.

Earthworms, bacteria, fungi, and insects live here, and their physical and metabolic processes keep recycling going. Recent research has shown that reducing leaf litter results in a rapid loss of carbon from the soil.

Temperate Deciduous Forest Climate

Temperate deciduous forests have temperatures between -22 ° F and 86 ° F. Average annual rainfall is 30 to 60 inches, with additional rainfall in the form of snow. Temperate deciduous forests need at least 120 days without frost.

Temperate deciduous forest roofs allow some sunlight to penetrate the forest floor. This creates more plant and animal diversity than in tropical or subtropical deciduous forests, both of which have dense canopies.

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