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The earth is an incredible place with many ecosystems.

Parts of our planet are icy cold, others have rain almost every day, and still others are full of tall, rocky mountains. In this lesson you will learn about one of the most common kinds of ecosystems: forests.

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What is a Forest?

Imagine spinning a globe with your eyes closed, and then stopping it at random with your finger. If you didn’t land in the ocean, there is a very good chance you landed in some type of forest. A forest is a land area that is populated by many trees.

Forests are one of the most common and most important kinds of ecosystems on our earth. Their trees help produce oxygen that all living things need. These great, green spaces are found all over our planet.

There are many different types of forests. Their differences have to do with where they are and the type of climates they’re in. Let’s look at a few different kinds of forests.

Boreal Forests

Boreal forests are found in cold, arctic regions in the northern hemisphere. These forests, also called taiga, cover large parts of Canada, Alaska, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia. The boreal forest is mostly made of coniferous trees like pine, spruce, and fir trees.

They are evergreens and usually have dark green needles.Large mammals, like beavers, moose, bears, and wolves, live in boreal forests. Canadian boreal forests are also home to half of the country’s 425 bird species, such as herons, hawks, owls, and geese.

Much of Canada is covered in boreal forest
Rainforests have lush green vegetation
rainforest

Tropical rainforests may have the most unique animals living in them. Rainforests in Asia are home to tigers, cobras, and various monkeys.

In South America, you might see giant anacondas, parrots, and the slow-moving sloth.

Deciduous Forests

If you live in the United States, deciduous (de-SID-joo-us) forests are probably very recognizable to you. They are found in eastern North America, Europe, Asia, and some parts of South America. Deciduous forests have four distinct seasons. These forests are home to trees like oak, maple and birch, whose leaves change colors during the fall before falling off completely for the winter.

In a deciduous forest you will find an amazing array of animals who are well adapted for four seasons, including eagles, bears, raccoons, and deer.

During the fall, leaves change colors in a deciduous forest
deciduous forest during fall

Parts of a Forest

Generally, forests are made of five different layers. The canopy, or top layer, is made of treetops. Next comes the understory, consisting of shorter trees that are growing below the canopy layer. Younger trees and bushes make the shrub layer.

Below the shrub layer is the herbaceous layer, full of grasses and seedlings. Finally, the last layer is the forest floor. It contains dead matter and is made of nutritious soil that all the other plants need in order to grow.As you move from the top layer to the bottom, there is less and less sunlight. A snake slithering along the forest floor might be in darkness while a monkey swinging through the understory would be flying through rays of sunshine.

Lesson Summary

Forests are the most dominant ecosystem on Earth and are found all over our planet. You just learned about three kinds: boreal forests of the northern hemisphere, tropical rainforests, and deciduous forests. The five layers of a forest are the tree tops, the understory, the shrub layer, the herbaceous layer and the forest floor.

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