Types of Forest Ecosystems
Over one-third of the Earth’s surface is covered by forests. Forests exist in all types of climate, whether dry, wet, extremely cold or extremely hot. Here, we shall discuss the various types of forest ecosystems in detail.
A forest ecosystem comprises of soil, trees, insects, animals, birds, and man as its interacting units. It is a large and complex ecosystem. It also plays a significant role in controlling the water cycle, stabilizing soils, levelling of the climate, and providing a habitat for wildlife. The forests also are a source of wood, food, and medicines.
Types of Forests
According to their distance from the equator, we can broadly divide the types of forests into the following:
- The Tropical forests
- The Temperate forests
- The Boreal or Taiga forests
However, there exist more specific types of forest ecosystems within these regions.
The Tropical Forests
The Tropical forests mainly exist around the equator in places like South America, Africa, Amazon region, and Southeast Asia. They have the maximum species diversity per area in the world.
Here, it rains a lot throughout the year but the temperature remains stable around 27°C or 60° F. Generally, these forests have two seasons, namely rainy and dry.
The temperature, rainfall and twelve hours of daylight stimulate the growth of up to 100 different species of trees. Some of them are Broadleaf trees, mosses, ferns, palms, and orchids.
These trees grow very densely and block most of the light from penetrating into it. One can also find animals such as snakes, frogs, lizards, monkeys, anacondas, jaguars, and small mammals in these forests.
Due to nutrient leaching, the soil of these forests lacks maximum essential nutrients which in turn make it useless for agriculture only after a few years of use. Thus, the topsoil gets depleted soon.
The sub-categories of forests under Tropical Forests are:
- Evergreen forests: As the name suggests these forests have rains throughout the year and thus, have no dry season.
- Seasonal forests: In these forests, the vegetation is evergreen but these experience a short dry season. Broadleaf evergreen trees, deciduous trees, and thorn trees are usually found here.
- Dry forests: These forests have a long dry season in which the trees lose leaves.
- Montane forests: These are also known as cloud forests as there occurs most precipitation from mist or fog that rises and mostly conifers are found here.
- Tropical and subtropical coniferous: In these forests, the climate is dry and warm with conifers adapting to variable weather conditions.
- Sub-tropical: These are found mostly in north and south of tropical forests. Here, the trees are adapted to resist summer drought.
The Temperate Forests
We can find temperate forests in North America, northeastern Asia, and Europe. In these forests, there are four seasons. Generally, the temperature here ranges from -30 to 30°C or -22 to 86° F.
Also, these forests receive rainfall of around 75-150cm or 30 -60 inches. Usually, one can find only 3-4 species of trees on an average per square km.
Deciduous or leaf shedding trees form a large proportion of trees. Coniferous trees such as pines and firs also grow here. Some of the common trees are oak, beech, elm, maple, birch, willow, and hickory.
Some of the commonly found animals are rabbits, birds, squirrels, deer, wolves, foxes, and bears. Both, the plants and the animals are adaptive to the cold winters and warm summer weather. The soil of these forests is fertile due to the combination of decaying fallen leaves and the moderate temperatures.
The sub-categories of forests under Temperate Forests are:
- Moist conifer and evergreen broad-leaved forests: These forests have mild wet winters and dry summers.
- Dry conifer forests: They exist at higher elevations and have little rainfall.
- Mediterranean forests: These are usually located in the south of temperate regions around the coast and have almost all evergreen trees.
- Temperate broad-leaved rainforest: These forests have mild, frost-free winters and experience lots of rain throughout the year. These are thus evergreen forests.
The Boreal or Taiga Forest
Usually, we can find them between 50 to 60 degrees of latitude in the sub-Arctic zone which comprises of Siberia, Scandinavia, Alaska, and Canada. These have two seasons namely, a short, moist and mildly-warm summer and a long, cold and dry winter.
The temperature here ranges from -40 to 20°C. One can find evergreen conifers here with needle leaves that are capable to stand the cold, such as pine, fir, and spruce trees.
Some of the animals that live here are deer, wolverines, caribou, bats, small mammals, birds, moose, bears, lynx, wolf, etc. that can bear long and cold winters. These animals usually have thick fur or other insulation.
However, the soil has a very thin layer and is poor in nutrients and acidic. Also, the canopy here does not allow the sunlight to penetrate into the ground and thus there is very little growth of the understory.
Question for You on Types of Forest
Q. Explain the Savanna and Woodlands?
Ans. The Savanna and Woodland ecosystems mostly prevail in South America, Africa, and Australia. These are vast areas of grasslands, bush thickets, and groups of sparse trees with flattened crowns. These are vulnerable to fires but have the ability to rejuvenate and re-grow.