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Deciduous forests: characteristics, flora and fauna

Deciduous forests extend throughout much of the northern hemisphere, as well as in some parts of Argentine Patagonia. It is a very common type of forest, belonging to the temperate hardwood forest biome. It is a well-known type of forest inhabited by a great variety of species, both animals and plants, as well as other kingdoms of nature.

If you want to know what a deciduous forest is, its characteristics, flora and fauna , join us in this interesting AgroCorrn article.

Deciduous forest characteristics

We will start by clarifying what a deciduous forest is. The most distinctive feature of a deciduous forest is that it is forests where a good part of the plant species lose their leaves every year , in the cold and dry season. When we talk about deciduous forests, the common thing is that we refer to a temperate deciduous forest, although there are also tropical ones, which can be called jungles or deciduous forests. Apart from the aforementioned, these are the main characteristics of deciduous forests :

The 4 seasons of the year in the forests

In this environment, the biome goes through the four seasons of the year, so its trees suffer adaptations and cycles linked to seasonal changes. That is, they lose their leaves in the winter months and make them sprout again with the arrival of spring. Learn more about it in this other article about Why the seasons exist .

Deciduous forest climate

The climate of the deciduous forests tends not to be extreme, although in the continental climate it offers quite marked thermal variations between night and day, as usual. Here, it is common for the temperature to drop below zero in the cold months, and for the average temperature to remain above 10 ºC in summer. In the oceanic climate, as is common, the thermal variations are smaller thanks to the influence of the marine winds.

Characteristics of deciduous forest trees

Being made up of deciduous trees, they enter a dormant season in the cold months, which drastically reduces their nutrient consumption and contributes to their renewal. Thanks to this, they tend to be very fertile forests in general terms, with a large amount of nutrients of all kinds.

It is also important to note that many of the trees in these forests have sap, which they use as a means of preventing freezing during the colder months. Many plant species can extend their growing season up to six months, thanks to the mild and beneficial conditions it offers. As trees grow each season for a few months and then retreat to rest, the so-called growth rings can be seen in the sections of their trunks : concentric circumferences in which each line represents a life cycle of the plant. In tropical deciduous forests these rings do not correspond to an exact year, since the growth is not the same in each season, so they cannot be used to calculate their age.

Unfortunately, this is one of the types of forest that has suffered the most deforestation at the hands of man around the world, especially due to urbanization and agriculture, which seeks to take advantage of its fertile and rich soils. Uncontrolled logging has left a large number of fauna species without habitat and displaced and its disappearance is especially noticeable in the territories of Europe and North America, where human progress has wreaked havoc.

Deciduous forest flora

The plants of the deciduous forest depend to a large extent, of course, on the region in which they are found, since these forests are widely distributed throughout the planet. These are some of the trees in the deciduous forest :

In North America and Europe we find trees such as:

  • The beech ( Fagus sylvatica )
  • The common oak ( Quercus robur )
  • Chestnut ( Castanea sativa )
  • Hornbeam ( Carpinus betulus )
  • Birch ( Betula spp. )

In Asia, species such as:

  • Liquidambar formosana
  • Pistacia chinensis
  • Quercus variabilis
  • Quercus dentata
  • Quercus acutissima

In South America we also find species of the genus Quercus, as well as some Nothofagus. Examples of the latter are:

  • The raulí ( Nothofagus alpina )
  • The maulino oak ( Nothofagus glauca )
  • Ñire ( Nothofagus antarctica )

In coniferous forests deciduous dominate them gymnosperms , especially those of the genus Larix. Learn more about What are gymnosperm plants, their characteristics and examples with this other article In this area it is common to find:

  • Larix sibirica
  • Larix gmelinii
  • Larix decidua
  • Larix cajanderi

Lastly, we have the tropical deciduous forests. In them it is very common to find:

  • Malvaceae
  • Legumes
  • Bignoniaceae
  • Burseráceas

The latter are typical of the American tropics. In addition, teak ( Tectona grandis ) occurs in the tropical deciduous forests of the Asian continent and is highly appreciated both for its wood and for the oil that is extracted from it, used in polishing other woods.

Deciduous forest fauna

Finally, we will talk about the fauna of the deciduous forests. Regarding this aspect, it must be taken into account that the animals of the deciduous forest present a great diversity, although there are very characteristic species that are worth mentioning.

In Europe we find deciduous forest animals such as:

In North America these other animals stand out. In addition, it should be noted that these can be seen from the more temperate zones to cold regions where there are coniferous forests.

  • Black bear
  • The Puma
  • The moose

Finally, in tropical deciduous forests we find:

  • E collared peccary
  • Howler monkey
  • The ocelot
  • The guacharaca
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