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What is a Deciduous Forest?

Today, we will learn about the deciduous forest, deciduous forest definition, different deciduous trees, their characteristics, and the different types of vegetation of the biome. A forest characterized by trees or plants, shedding its leaves annually is known as a deciduous forest. Plants like mosses, herbs, and ferns are found in these forests. Deciduous forests are mainly observed in North America, Europe, and Asia. We have temperate deciduous forests, tropical and subtropical Deciduous forests (dry forests). The word ‘deciduous’ means “tending to fall”. A biome, generally characterized by broadleaved trees or shrubs, shedding its leaves annually (usually in autumn), is known as a deciduous forest.


What are Deciduous Forests?

These are the type of forests that shed their leaves every year during the period when days are getting shorter and colder, these tree leaves lose their color and fall off around autumn to winter. Slowly during Spring and Summer, as days become longer and warmer, they start to regrow their leaves. These forests are extra open and much less luxuriant than the equatorial evergreen forests.


Location of Deciduous Forest 

The eastern half of North America and the center of Europe are covered with deciduous woods. In Asian countries such as northeastern China Plain, Japan are some of the key places where there are many deciduous woods. Other places such Southwest Russia, one in southern Chile and the other on Paraguay's Middle East coast too are rich in Deciduous forests. Deciduous woods can also be found in New Zealand and southern Australia. 


Climatic Conditions of Deciduous Forests 

Deciduous Forests are found in the mid-latitudes, or between the arctic regions and the tropics, which are exposed to varying warm and cold air masses with chilly winters and warm, rainy summers, the temperature swings greatly from season to season resulting in four distinct seasons, spring, summer, autumn, and winter. In the autumn the leaves change color. During the winter months the trees lose their leaves. The annual average temperature is around 10°C (50°F) annual rainfall averages around 750 to 1,500 mm ( 30-60 inches). 


Tree leaves change color from luscious green to dull and dry brown, and eventually drop their leaves throughout the fall season. This is done to be ready for the next winter season. The trees have adapted to the cold by going into a period of dormancy, or slumber, in order to survive the winter. They have thick bark as well, which protects them from the elements. The spring and summer growth seasons are when trees bloom and flourish.


Habitat in Deciduous Forest 

Many different kinds of broadleaf trees such as oak, maple, beech, hickory and chestnut grow in deciduous forests. Some plants, such as mountain laurels, azaleas, and moss, grow only on shaded forest floors that are not exposed to sunlight. These forest plants include flowers, ferns, moss and herbs. Flowers such as orchids and  vines grow well  in these forests. In order to adapt to its environment, the animals hibernate in the winter and live off the land for the remaining three seasons. The animals have adapted to the terrain by attempting to devour the plants in the forest in order to ensure a steady source of food. They can also take refuge among the woods as the trees serve as food and water supplies for animals. The majority of the creatures have been disguised to resemble the terrain. The plants have adapted to the forests by leaning toward the sun.

 

Deciduous Forest Characteristics

Here, we have given some major characteristics of the deciduous forest.

  • Out of the four seasons, the deciduous forests grow in one of the suitable seasons.

  • Deciduous forests are rich in moisture.

  • The soil of the deciduous forests is rich in minerals. The leaves shed on the soils provide organic material for it. Organic matter is broken down by many species present in the soil.

  • The leaves are generally broad-leaved, arranged in the canopy: understory, shrub, and ground.

  • During the shedding of leaves, the plants enter a dormant period.

  • Deciduous forests are mainly characterized by Northern Hardwood, Central Hardwood, and South Pine and Oak.


Deciduous Forest Examples

Let’s discuss the examples of deciduous forests. Some famous deciduous forests are the European Temperate Deciduous Forest, Northeast China Plain, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (UK).

 

Did You Know?

After going through the definition of deciduous forests, their characteristics, here's some more information about deciduous forests. The leaves of the deciduous forests are shed generally in the cold season. Upon the arrival of the cold season, the chlorophyll is broken down and withdrawn. The waste products of the photosynthesis remain to color the leaves with various colors. The stomata are present on the surface of pine needles, hence are not protected. The needles protect against the cold and snow in the northern climates. The plants are characterized by thorns to keep away different animals.

 

Conclusion

Deciduous forests play an important role in the balance of our ecosystem. In this particular biome, a large variety of flora and fauna is observed. The trees provide shelter for different animals, birds, and insects. The leaves shed in the winter season provide the soil with various minerals. Decomposers like fungi, bacteria, and worms provide nutrients for the plants.

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FAQs on Deciduous Forest

1. What is a Deciduous Forest Known For?

Deciduous forest is known for its deciduous trees and plants, which shed their leaves annually, usually in the winter season. The forests are generally dense as the shape and height of the plants vary. Deciduous means “tending to fall” in respect of plants and trees, and hence the name is derived. It is also known for its conifers, plants like maples, chestnuts, elm. Vibrant-coloured flowers are observed in the flowering plants just after the winter season, followed by fresh green leaves. Deciduous forests are the most important habitat areas for a variety of wildlife species relying on them as their primary source of food and shelter. Also, deciduous forests provide mankind with various qualities of woods used for furniture, or as fuel.

2. What are the Main Characteristics of a Deciduous Forest?

Out of the four seasons, the deciduous forests grow in one of the suitable seasons. Deciduous forests are rich in moisture. The soil of the deciduous forests is rich in minerals. The leaves shed on the soils provide organic material for it. Organic matter is broken down by many species present in the soil. The leaves are generally broad-leaved, arranged in the canopy: understory, shrub, and ground. During the shedding of leaves, the plants enter a dormant period. Deciduous forests are mainly characterized by Northern Hardwood, Central Hardwood, and South Pine and Oak. Chestnuts, oaks, maples, beeches, and lindens are largely observed in deciduous forests. The variation in their shape and height results in a dense growth of the forests. Conifers like fir, spruce, and pine trees are also observed in this biome.

3. What are the key features of Deciduous Forest?

They are well known for their plants and animals. They are a home to many luscious plants and trees such as cheshnut, elm, maple and are also well known for the vibrant growth of flowers because of their soil which is rich in minerals. Many animals rely on these forests for shelter and hibernation during winters. 

4. Why are such forests called Deciduous? 

Deciduous means falling off or to fall off. It is very apt here as the trees found in these forests shed their leaves during cold and dry weather. 

5. How many layers are deciduous forest broken down into?

There are five levels to deciduous woods (or stratum). Tall trees such as oak, maple, hickory, beech, and elm grow in the tree layer (tree stratum), which range in height from 60 to 100 feet. Small trees, such as dogwoods and redbuds, make up the seedling or small tree layer. Bushes such as azaleas and rhododendrons make up the shrub layer. The herb layer, which includes annual wildflowers, ferns, and ground level plants, is followed by the ground layer, which includes mosses, clubmosses, and lichens.

6. Name a few well known Deciduous forests from all around the globe? 

Some famous deciduous forests are the European Temperate Deciduous Forest, The Manchurian mixed forest, Northeast China Plain, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (UK)

7. What kind of soil is found in Deciduous forests? 

Grey-brown soil and ground podzols are the kind of soil found in deciduous forest. The soil is mildly acidic, with a thick coating of granular humus. Some deciduous trees that grow near streams, rivers, or wet locations prevent the soil from degrading and being washed away by the stream.


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