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This lesson will explore the unique characteristics of the temperate deciduous forest biome.

The lesson will also discuss animals and plants that can be found in this biome and the adaptations they have developed to ensure survival.

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Definition of Temperate Deciduous Forests

Here are two different pictures of two different forests, both taken in the middle of October. One picture is of a lush, green forest in Florida, and the other picture is of a forest in New York with red and orange leaves. But why do these trees look so different?The New York trees have leaves of a different color because they are located within the temperate deciduous forest biome. The biome is unique because the forest is characterized both by the region where it exists and also how the trees respond to that region.

The term temperate describes the area of the earth that lies between the polar regions and the tropics. Temperate deciduous forests are located within this region and can be found in the Eastern United States, Canada, Europe, China, and Japan.Temperate deciduous forests are characterized as having four different seasons due to the exposure to both warm and cold air masses. On average, these types of forests have cold winters and hot, wet summers. The temperature in temperate deciduous forest can range from -20°F in the winter to over 90°F in the summer, with a yearly average temperature of 50°F.

Another characteristic of temperate deciduous forests is that they get between 30-60 inches of precipitation each year. The precipitation comes in the form of rain or snow and is spread relatively evenly throughout the year.

Plants and Adaptations

The most visibly noticeable feature of a temperate deciduous forest is how the vegetation changes throughout the four seasons. The leaves of most trees change colors during the fall months, fall off during the winter, grow back in the spring months, and are in full swing in the summer.

The term deciduous is used to describe this type of forest, where trees lose their leaves at the end of each growing season.

Image of Trees During Each Season

Trees lose their leaves as an adaptation to survive the cold temperatures experienced during the winter.

The production and maintenance of leaves requires a great deal of energy, so in order to save energy during the cold winter months, deciduous trees lose their leaves.The trees actually go into a state of dormancy for the winter. Many deciduous trees also have thick bark to protect them from the cold temperatures. As the temperatures warm in the spring, trees begin to sprout new leaves and continue to grow throughout the summer when the temperatures are adequate and water is more plentiful.Common trees found in temperate deciduous forests include those that are often referred to as broadleaf trees or hardwood trees, such as oaks, maples, beeches, birches, and chestnuts. Other plants found in this biome include shrubs, perennial herbs, and mosses.There are spring wildflowers that live in deciduous forests also, but they are only seen in the early spring before the trees have grown new leaves.

These wildflowers are only able to get enough light before the trees grow leaves, and once the leaves appear they die back until the next spring.

Common Deciduous Trees: Sugar Maple (left) and Birch Trees (right)
deciduous trees

Animals and Adaptations

There are a wide range of animal species that live in temperate deciduous forests. The most noticeable species associated with temperate deciduous forests include mammals, such as deer, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, rabbits, black bears, and skunks. There are also many types of birds, including red-tailed hawks, turkeys, ducks, cardinals, blue jays, and bald eagles.Temperate deciduous forests are also home to many rodents such as beavers, muskrats, chipmunks, and squirrels.

In addition to these larger species, there are also many smaller species of insects, amphibians, and reptiles found in temperate deciduous forests.Similarly to trees found in temperate deciduous forests, animals also adapt to deal with the changing seasons. Some species, such as black bears, go into a dormant state and hibernate during the winter months to save energy. Small animals, such as chipmunks, also go into a state where they move less to save energy.

They are also known to collect and store food when it is plentiful and consume it during the winter months when food is scarce.Other species alter their fur to deal with differences in temperatures throughout the seasons. They grow thick coats of fur during the winter to retain heat and shed their thick fur in the summer to stay cool.

Some species survive the cold winters by migrating to warmer regions for the winter months and then returning in spring.

Animals of Temperate Deciduous Forests: Coyote (left), Blue Jay (middle), and Chipmunk (right)

Lesson Summary

Temperate deciduous forests have two distinctive characteristics.

They are temperate, meaning they are located between the polar regions and the tropics, and they are deciduous, which means they have trees that lose their leaves every growing season. Temperate deciduous forests are known for having four visibly different seasons, which greatly influences both the plant and animal species that live in this biome and has resulted in the development of many survival adaptations.

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