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What are the Different Types of Forest Species?

By T. Webster
Updated May 17, 2024
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There generally are three main types of forests — tropical, temperate and boreal — and each forest has its own species of animals and plants. Within these forests also are many subdivisions and classifications that take into account rainfall, soil composition and temperature. All of these factors determine the various kinds of species found in the forests.

Tropical forests are located near the equator and have by far the most diverse forest species. Tropical forests cover just 7 percent of the land in the world but contain more than half of the world’s animal and plant species. The variety of species includes about 125 mammals, 400 birds, 150 butterflies, 750 trees and 1,500 flowering plants.

Among the plants in tropical forests are ferns, mosses, orchids, vines and palms. Some specific species of animals include boa constrictors, jaguars, lemurs and spider monkeys. Many types of small mammals, bats, birds, reptiles and insects round out the wide variety of animal species.

Some species in the tropical forest are in danger of becoming extinct, primarily because of the destruction of this kind of forest by people who cut it down or develop it. Roughly half of the world’s tropical forests have been destroyed. Among the endangered species are orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas, toucans, parrots, Bengal tigers and manatees.

Temperate forests are found in North America, western and central Europe and northeastern Asia, in areas characterized by distinct changes in seasons. Trees common to temperate forests are maple, oak, hemlock, beech, hickory, elm, cottonwood and willow. Herbs that flower in the spring also are common. The more common animal forest species are deer, timber wolves, fox, black bear, mountain lions, rabbits, skunks, squirrels and birds.

Boreal forests have the least variety of forest species, partly because they exist in extremely cold climates. These forests are found in Siberia, Scandinavia, Alaska, Canada and North America, where the winters are long and cold. The most common types of flora in these forests are evergreens such as fir, spruce and pine. Among the animal forest species are wolves, bears, moose, weasels, chipmunks, hares, foxes, deer and bats. Continued logging of boreal forests threaten to further deplete their trees.

Conditions can be tough on forest species in the boreal forests. In the coldest areas, trees grow just a few short weeks of the year. Plants also grow slowly, prompting some of the animals to have to roam long distances to find ample food.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main types of forest species?

Forest species encompass a diverse range of organisms, including trees, shrubs, herbs, and a variety of fauna. Trees like oaks, pines, and maples are keystone species in many forests. Understory plants such as ferns and mosses thrive in the shade of these giants. Forests are also home to countless animal species, from insects and birds to mammals and reptiles, each playing a crucial role in the ecosystem.

How do forest species adapt to their environment?

Forest species exhibit remarkable adaptations to thrive in their specific habitats. Trees may develop thick bark to protect against fire or deep root systems to access water in dry areas. Animals have evolved camouflage, like the owl's plumage blending into tree bark, or behavioral adaptations such as bears hibernating to survive winter when food is scarce.

What is the importance of biodiversity in forests?

Biodiversity is vital for forest health and resilience. A rich tapestry of species ensures ecosystem stability, enhances productivity, and provides a buffer against diseases and pests. According to the World Wildlife Fund, forests with high biodiversity are better equipped to withstand environmental stressors and provide essential services like carbon sequestration and soil erosion prevention.

How do forest species contribute to the ecosystem?

Forest species contribute to their ecosystems through various ecological roles. Trees produce oxygen and sequester carbon dioxide, combating climate change. Decomposers like fungi and bacteria break down dead matter, recycling nutrients. Pollinators such as bees and butterflies are crucial for plant reproduction, and predators keep herbivore populations in check, maintaining a balanced food web.

What are the effects of deforestation on forest species?

Deforestation has devastating effects on forest species, leading to habitat loss, decreased biodiversity, and species extinction. The removal of trees disrupts the habitat for countless organisms and alters the microclimate. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, deforestation is a primary cause of species extinction, with 80% of terrestrial biodiversity living in forests.

How can we protect forest species?

Protecting forest species requires concerted conservation efforts. Establishing protected areas, enforcing anti-poaching laws, and promoting sustainable forestry practices are key strategies. Reforestation and habitat restoration can help reverse the damage done by deforestation. Additionally, supporting organizations that work to conserve forests and their species is crucial for maintaining these vital ecosystems for future generations.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By browncoat — On Feb 05, 2012

@Iluviaporos - It's definitely a greater problem than just frogs.

While pollution is definitely an issue (particularly in countries where the trees are being killed by acid rains) most endangered species in the forest are going to be decimated by the climate changes that are already happening. Unfortunately, even a few degrees difference can affect all kinds of species in different ways. If it makes the trees bloom earlier, it can mean that migratory birds miss out on the food they are timed to expect, which means they can't raise as many chicks.

Warmer weather also means bugs that should be killed over the winter will survive which can destroy plants and trees.

And those are just the problems we are aware of at the moment. I'm sure we won't know the full extent of the problem until after it has hit us. I just hope it doesn't mean every forest species we currently treasure will go extinct.

By lluviaporos — On Feb 04, 2012

@KoiwiGal - I read an article recently about how frogs in forest all over the world are starting to go extinct.

To the point where scientists are beginning to try and gather up examples of every species to preserve them in zoos.

Pollution is just too much for an animal which lives in water and has skin constantly in contact with anything that gets into the water.

Even when the frogs are breeding, the tadpoles are born with defects like extra legs.

It really broke my heart. I'd hate to live in a world without frogs and it is also a symptom of a greater problem.

By KoiwiGal — On Feb 03, 2012

I find it amazing that they are still discovering animal species in some rain forests around the world.

Even mammals, which you would assume had all already been discovered. But there are still pockets of unexplored forest in places like Papua New Guinea where the forests and the aggressive locals make it difficult to explore.

I know they have discovered some amazing new bird species and small mammals like kinds of mouse or marmot recently.

The sad thing is, these endangered forest species are still affected by changing climates and pollution. So, unfortunately they could potentially die out before we even know they exist.

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