Deciduous Forest Definition
A deciduous forest type is a forest dominating by the trees that lose their foliage at the end of the growing season. They differ from evergreen forests in which the majority of trees are evergreen (remain “green” throughout the year). Evergreen trees shed their leaves at various periods of the year.
The term deciduous is derived from the Latin word deciduous means “falling off.” In deciduous forests, the plants shed all the leaves in a season, and then new foliage is produced.
What is Deciduous Forest?
In most deciduous forests of the temperate regions trees fall their leaves in the winter season whereas, in tropical and subtropical regions, trees shed their leaves in the hot dry season. In the case of evergreen forests, the plant does not shed their leaves completely, but they adopt some other mechanisms to protect themselves in harsh conditions.
For example, they have anti-freeze chemicals in cells and wax coats on leaves that protect these plants in a cold climate. Deciduous trees lack any adaptation to protect their leaves in adverse conditions therefore their leaves are shed completely.
Plants have mainly two types of light receptors as phytochromes and cryptochromes. These receptors detect the day-length changes in deciduous plants and respond to these changes.
The plant also consists of different pigments like carotenoids, which is a non-green pigment, and anthocyanins. These pigments are responsible for leaf colors. The carotenoid provides gold or yellow color to leaves and anthocyanins provide red, purple, or brown color.
Later on, these brown-colored leaves will be blown by the wind. After the winter or dry season, new leaves start growing that are enriched with chlorophyll.
Types of Deciduous Forest
The types of deciduous forests are categorized based on geographical locations. For example temperate deciduous forests, Subtropical and tropical deciduous forests. Northern America, western Eurasia, and north-eastern Asia are rich in temperate deciduous forests.
The tropical region is rich in tropical forests and subtropical deciduous forests are located in the subtropical regions. The leaf fall of temperate deciduous forests occurs in the autumn and then regrow the new foliage in the spring season. In deciduous forests, the plants shed their leaves in the dry season and regrow their leaves in the rainy season.
Zones of Deciduous Forests
The deciduous forest is divided into five zones:
Tree stratum zone: Plants ranging in height from 18 m to 30 m tall come under this zone. It is the first zone consisting of tall trees.
Small tree and sapling zone: this zone consists of all younger trees. The plants are shorter than the trees of the tree stratum zone.
Shrub zone: This zone includes shrubs such as huckleberries and mountain laurel.
Herb zone: The fourth zone includes herbs and fern species.
Ground zone: Lichens and mosses are included in this zone.
Deciduous Forest Plants
The deciduous trees in the mid-latitude consist of various broadleaf plants. These forests have dominant trees such as oaks, beeches, birches, aspens, elms, maples, and basswoods. The deciduous forests of the Southern Hemisphere are rich in Nothofagus.
Deciduous Forest Animals
Snails, slugs, insects, and spiders are some common invertebrates found in deciduous forests. The commonly found animals in these forests include snakes, frogs, turtles, birds, and mammals. Warblers, owls, thrushes, vireos, woodpeckers, and hawks are birds commonly seen in deciduous forests. The mammals include mice, moles, chipmunks, foxes, and deer.