What is a Temperate Forest?
You can find temperate forests in the northern hemisphere. Temperate forests are found in eastern North America, most of Europe, eastern China, Korea and northern Japan. They are mostly made up of deciduous trees such as oak, hickory, maple and beech. Since they are home to a great variety of plant and animal species, they are very biodiverse. Therefore, protecting temperate forest means protecting biodiversity.
Deciduous trees lose their leaves each fall and grow a new set each spring. Most of the other plants and shrubs in the forest have a similar cycle of growth. They do all their growing in the spring, summer and fall and become inactive in the winter.
The temperate deciduous forests experience four seasons. Spring, summer, fall and winter are usually equal in length. Temperate means moderate or not extreme. This refers to the moderate temperature range in these forests. The coldest temperature for these forests is usually 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-29 degrees Celsius). The hottest it gets is around 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). Rain or snow falls evenly throughout the year. The temperate forests get between 30 and 60 inches of precipitation (75 to 150 centimeters) a year!
Why is the Temperate Forest Important?
The temperate forest is important because of its biodiversity. It is home to many species of trees and plants. The only parts of the world that have more tree species are the tropical rain forests.
When it comes to animals, there aren’t a lot of large mammals in the forests, but there are a lot of smaller animals like squirrels and chipmunks. There are many reptiles in the temperate forests, especially the salamander. Even though many birds migrate south during the winter, there are lots of species of birds in the forest during the summer.
Streams rely on trees to keep dirt from moving into the streams. If too much dirt gets into the stream it could kill fish and plants. The streams also rely on trees to provide a good ecosystem for fish. When the leaves fall into the stream, bacteria and fungi feed off the leaves. Then insects, called “shredders,” eat the leaves and the fungi. These insects are favorite foods of fish. Lastly, fishermen can catch the healthy fish.
The trees from temperate forests are used for lumber to make houses and wood products.
Temperate forests are used for recreation like camping and hiking. They are also preserved as state and national parks.
What are the Threats to the Temperate Forests?
There are a number of threats to the temperate forests.
Although it is hard to prove that air pollution kills trees outright, scientists know that the pollution does weaken trees’ health. On the west side of Mount Mitchell in North Carolina, USA, half of the red spruce and fir are dead. Scientists believe this is because of acid rain.
Even deer are a threat to the temperate forests. Without natural predators the deer population has gone up dramatically. These deer eat the flowers in the temperate forests. Too many deer can lead to flower extinction.
Trees are cut down to provide lumber and products we use every day. Trees are replanted, but environmentalists say not all the species are replanted.
Global warming is when too much carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere causing what scientists call the greenhouse effect. This is when the earth’s temperature increases. Scientists are not exactly sure how this will affect the plants and animals in the temperate forests, but they do know that global warming does effect plant growth.
Trees are being cut down for human needs like farms, homes, resorts, ski slopes, stores and a lot of other commercial and recreational areas. Forests cleared for farmland has led to the complete destruction of the temperate forests in some regions such as eastern China.
Illegal Harvest of Plants and Animals
This is when one takes a plant or animal out of the forest that is protected by law. Black bear paws, gallbladders, and other body parts are illegally sold to Asian clients to be made into folk medicine. Rare wildflowers are dug up and sold for landscaping.
Mining involves clearing forests to get to the resources underground. Many acres of forests could be damaged because trees can not re-grow when the soil is stripped.
Off-road vehicles are a threat to plants and animals in the temperate forests, especially when ridden off of the trails. These vehicles rip up plants and crush animal burrows.
How You Can Help
Recycle paper and other products. This saves energy and reduces the amount of trees we cut down to make paper.
Turn off appliances when not using them. Saving electricity can prevent the need for mining fossil fuels.
Write letters to your government officials, telling them you think conserving temperate forests is important.