FORESTS

Forest biomes are dominated by trees and extend over one-third of the earth's land surface. There are three main types of forests—temperate, tropical and boreal. Each type has a different assortment of animals, climate characteristics and species compositions.

 Temperate forests are in temperate regions of the earth including North America, Europe and Asia. They have four well-defined seasons and a growing season between 140 and 200 days. Rainfall takes place throughout the year and soils are nutrient-rich.

 Tropical forests are located in equatorial regions between 23.5°N and 23.5°S latitude. They experience two seasons, a dry season and a rainy season. The length of each day varies little throughout the year. Soils in tropical forests are nutrient-poor and acidic.

 Boreal forests make up the largest terrestrial habitat. They are a band of coniferous forests located in the high northern latitudes between about 50°N and 70°N. Boreal forests create a circumpolar band of habitat from Canada, to northern Europe, to eastern Russia. They are bordered by tundra habitat to the north and temperate forest habitat to the south.

Some of the wildlife that inhabit the forest biome include deer, bears, wolves, moose, caribou, gorillas, squirrels, chipmunks, birds, reptiles and insects.

  

TEMPERATE FORESTS

 Temperate forests are found in a wide range of climates and are some of the richest habitats earth. Temperate forests are home to a variety of plants and animals. Some live within them year-round, while migratory animals visit them seasonally.

The two main types of temperate forests are deciduous forests and evergreen forests.

Deciduous forests contain trees that loose their leaves in the fall. They are usually located in the Northern Hemisphere in parts of North America, Europe and Japan.

Evergreen forests are made up of trees that don't lose their leaves in the fall. They usually are found in warmer climates in South America, southern Europe, South Africa and parts of southern Australia. A more varied range of wildlife is often found in evergreen forests than deciduous forests.

A wide variety of animals call temperate forests home. Mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and insects live in temperate forests. The most common mammals are deer, squirrels, birds and wild boars.

Since food is plentiful in evergreen forests year round, even more varieties of wildlife inhabit them. Reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals and insects are plentiful in evergreen forests.

Temperate forests once covered huge areas of the Northern Hemisphere. As a result of logging and deforestation for agriculture, most forests are already gone.

  

CONIFEROUS FORESTS

Coniferous forests are located in the far north, many within the Arctic Circle. They are predominantly home to conifers, the toughest and longest living trees. Conifers grow close together resulting in dense forests that are sheltered.

Coniferous forests include boreal forests and temperate forests.

Boreal forests stretch across the far north. Temperate coniferous forests are located in western North America, New Zealand and Chile. Some trees in the temperate coniferous forests in North America are over 500 years old.

Boreal coniferous forests stretch across the far north from Siberia, through Northern Europe, to Alaska, covering a distance of 6 million square miles. They are 1,000 miles wide in places. A large proportion of boreal coniferous forest is in the Arctic Circle, where plants and animals are well adapted to cold temperatures.

While fewer plant and animal species are found in coniferous forests compared to temperate forests and rainforests, many plants and animals still live within them. Conifer trees withstand the cold. Their pine needles are acidic, which passes into the soil when needles drop, allowing only acid loving plants to survive in coniferous forests. Only herbivores that survive on acidic plants can inhabit coniferous forests.

Insects make up the majority of animals found in coniferous forests. The dense trees provide ideal habitat for them to build their nests. Deer, elk, wolves and bears are also common in coniferous forests.

Coniferous forests are the least affected forests by humans. The trees are softwood and usually only used for making paper. Larger areas of coniferous forests are being logged however, as paper demand increases.

  

RAINFORESTS

Rainforests are home to more than 50% of all living species on the planet. They receive an abundance of rain and contain extremely diverse wildlife. The two main types of rainforest are tropical rainforests and seasonal rainforests.

Tropical rainforests are close to the Equator where the climate is warm, providing ideal conditions for plants. 170,000 of the world’s 250,000 known plant species are found in tropical rainforests. They have various layers of canopy providing a wide variety of habitats for animals. A large collection of tall tree species is made possible by a constant water flow. Tropical forests are home to smaller primates and bird species than seasonal rainforests.

Seasonal rainforests are usually further away from the Equator. Their climate is less stable then tropical rainforests. Rather than rain being dispersed evenly throughout the year, it comes all at once in what is called the monsoon. Trees in seasonal rainforests are generally much smaller than those in tropical rainforests. Larger animals inhabit the changing seasonal rainforests, such as tigers, primates and large snakes.

The broad array of animals found in rainforests include mammals, reptiles, birds and invertebrates. Mammals include primates, wildcats and tapirs. Reptiles include a variety of snakes, turtles and lizards. Numerous species of birds and insects live in rainforests. Fungi is common, which feed on the decomposing remains of plants and animals. Many animal species have adopted a tree-dwelling (arboreal) lifestyle in the rainforest. Food is abundant in the forests due to the amount of water and plant life.

Numerous plant and animal species are rapidly disappearing from rainforests due to deforestation, habitat loss and other human activities. Around 50 million people live in rainforests. Their habitat and culture is also threatened as an alarming amount of rainforest land disappears each year.

 

FOREST FACTS

DEFORESTATION: CLEARING THE PATH FOR WILDLIFE EXTINCTION

As the population of the world grows, more mouths to feed means more land needed for agriculture. Where will the land come from? From the denudation of forests, of course. Rather than focusing on sustainable forms of vegetable farming, the modern farming industry continues to promote animal agribusiness. Raising animals for food results in massive amounts of forest destruction. It takes 12 times as much land, 13 times more fuel and 15 times more water to make a pound of animal protein than to make a pound of plant protein.

PALM OIL THREATS TO FORESTS & ORANGUTANS

Once found all over South-East Asia and even the far reaches of Southern China, orangutans have found themselves squeezed to just the two islands of Sumatra and Borneo. The great red-haired apes have been around for almost 400,000 years, but have seen their numbers dwindle alarmingly from over 200,000 a century ago to only 45,000 presently. The habitats of this iconic animal have been pushed to the rain forests in the northern fringes of the Sumatra island of Indonesia and just the south-eastern part of Borneo.

CAUSES OF DEFORESTATION

People have been deforesting the Earth for thousands of years, primarily to clear land for crops or livestock. Although tropical forests are largely confined to developing countries, they aren’t just meeting local or national needs; economic globalization means that the needs and wants of the global population are bearing down on them as well. Direct causes of deforestation are agricultural expansion, wood extraction (e.g., logging or wood harvest for domestic fuel or charcoal), and infrastructure expansion such as road building and urbanization. Rarely is there a single direct cause for deforestation.

TROPICAL DEFORESTATION

Stretching out from the equator on all Earth’s land surfaces is a wide belt of forests of amazing diversity and productivity. Tropical forests include dense rainforests, where rainfall is abundant year-round; seasonally moist forests, where rainfall is abundant, but seasonal; and drier, more open woodlands. Tropical forests of all varieties are disappearing rapidly as humans clear the natural landscape to make room for farms and pastures, to harvest timber for construction and fuel, and to build roads and urban areas.

RATES OF TROPICAL DEFORESTATION

Several international groups produce routine estimates of tropical deforestation, most notably the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, which has been producing a global forest resources assessment every five to ten years since the late 1940s. The FAO report is based on statistics provided by countries themselves, and because the ability of countries to accurately assess their forest resources varies depending on their financial, technological, and institutional resources, the estimates for some countries are likely more accurate then others.

ANIMAL AGRICULTURE IS DESTROYING TROPICAL FORESTS

Deforestation causes drastic loss of tropical forest biodiversity, and most deforestation occurs due to animal agriculture. Remaining areas of undisturbed and recovering forest provide the last refuge for many species unable to withstand the impact of human activity. As one of the most comprehensive surveys of the impacts of disturbance on tropical forest biodiversity ever conducted, an international team of scientists found where forests had been cleared for animal agriculture, plant and animal life was impoverished.

LOGGING: CUTTING DOWN WILDLIFE HABITATS

Forests are vital for the health and well-being of humans, wildlife, and the Earth. They provide habitat for about two-thirds of all land-dwelling animals and plants. Around the world, these critical ecosystems are being ripped apart as a result of a booming demand for furniture, flooring, lumber, and other building materials. Trees are used to make paper, packaging materials, pencils, fuel for cooking and heat, and other wood-based products.

BIRDS PAY ULTIMATE PRICE FOR TIMBER

Tropical forests are home to more of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity than any other habitat and are increasingly threatened by the impact of human activities. Illegal logging, in particular, poses a severe and increasing threat to tropical forests worldwide. The devastating impact of illegal logging on bird communities is especially damaging. The level of legal and illegal logging has increased dramatically, greater than maximum sustainable rates. As a result, the abundance of forest understory bird species is declining.

SUSTAINING TROPICAL FORESTS

Strategies for preserving tropical forests can operate on local to international scales. On a local scale, governments and non-governmental organizations are working with forest communities to encourage low-impact agricultural activities, such as shade farming, as well as the sustainable harvesting of non-wood forest products such as rubber, cork, produce, or medicinal plants. Parks and protected areas that draw tourists—ecotourism.

LEMURS: SPIRITS OF THE NIGHT

About 600 miles off the coast of South-Eastern Africa lies the fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar. Famed for its lush green tropical forest, misty highlands, temperate climate and 3,000 miles of coastline, this jewel in the Indian Ocean is home to one of the most exotic creatures in the world – the lemurs. Madagascar's 160 million years of isolation as a landmass has shaped an ecosystem and habitat that's perfectly suited and unique to the existence of lemurs.

WHY FORESTS MATTER

Many factors affect forests including logging, urban sprawl, human-caused forest fires, acid rain, invasive species, and the slash and burn practices of swidden agriculture or shifting cultivation. The loss and re-growth of forest leads to a distinction between two broad types of forest, primary or old-growth forest and secondary forest. There are also many natural factors that can cause changes in forests over time including forest fires, insects, diseases, weather, competition between species, etc. The World Resources Institute recorded that only 20% of the world's original forests remained in large, intact tracts of undisturbed forest. More than 75% of these intact forests lie in three countries - the boreal forests of Russia and Canada and the rainforest of Brazil.

10 STEPS TO SAVE FORESTS

Forest are great storehouses of natural life. Nearly half of our forest are now gone. We must act now to save the earth's forest. You can help by reducing, reusing, recycling & refusing to purchase paper and wood products that that are not ecologically responsible. Every ton of paper that is recycled saves 17 trees, 4100 kilowatts of electricity, 7000 gallons of water and 90 cubic feet of landfill space.1. Volunteer for tree-planting projects.

CHIMPANZEE FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL

Millions chimpanzees once thrived in the forests of 25 different African nations. Today, their populations have been reduced to only 5 nations and their numbers have plummeted to between 150,000 and 300,000. Without immediate action, humans' closest living relative could be lost in only 15 years. Humans are largely responsible for chimpanzee population declines. In addition to poaching, which plagues areas of Africa, deforesting and farming are quickly eliminating the habitats of chimps.

KOALAS: A PEACEFUL SLUMBER DISTURBED

With its cuddly stout body and large paws, the koala resembles a small teddy bear. The koala bear is an Australian icon and its habitat is exclusively confined to the coastal eucalyptus forests in the North-western and South-eastern parts of the country, spread over the states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. While eucalyptus leaves are poisonous to many animals inhabiting this region, to the koala it forms an essential part of its diet.

JAGUARS STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL

The jaguar is the third-largest animal in the cat family, after the tiger and the lion. Dating back to almost half a million years, the jaguar strode the entire length of the American continent from just below the Arctics in the north down to Patagonia in southern-most Argentina. But sadly, it has found its present day habitat restricted to the tropical jungles of Central America and Amazon in South America. This translates into a habitat loss of almost 40%. Not a single jaguar has been spotted in the US in the last half a century.