Types and Characteristic Features:
(a) Temperate Forest Ecosystem:
The temperate forest ecosystem is very important on Earth. Temperate forests are in regions where the climate changes a lot from summer to winter. Tropical rain forests are in regions where the climate stays constant all year long. Temperate forests are almost always made of two types of trees, deciduous and evergreen. Deciduous trees are trees that lose their leaves in the winter.
Evergreens are trees that keep them all year long, like pine trees. Forests can either be one or the other, or a combination of both. A fourth kind of forest is a temperate rain forest. These are found in California, Oregon and Washington in the United States.
These forests are made of redwoods and sequoias, the tallest trees in the world. The amount of rainfall in an area determines if a forest is present. If there is enough rain to support trees, then a forest will usually develop. Otherwise, the region will become grasslands.
(b) The Tropical Rain Forest Ecosystem:
Tropical rain forests are one of the most important areas on Earth. These special ecosystems are homes to thousands of species animals and plants. Contrary to popular belief, rain forests are not only densely packed plants, but are also full of tall trees that form a ceiling from the Sun above. This ceiling keeps smaller plants from growing. Areas where sunlight can reach the surface are full of interesting plants.
Do you know where rain forests get their name? They are so named because they receive a lot of rain – an average of 80 inches a year. The temperature doesn’t change very much during the year. It is always warm and muggy. The famous Amazon jungle is located in Brazil, in South America. This particular forest is called the Neotropics. Other large blocks are located in Central and West Africa.
(i) Insects of the Tropical Rain Forest:
The most feared and well known spider in the world resides in the jungle. Tarantulas are one of the creepiest animals you will ever see. Most species of tarantula have poisonous fangs for killing prey and for protection.
Although some are life-threatening to humans, others are harmless. Army ants are just one species of ant in the rain forest. They are called army ants because they march in a long, thick line through the jungle. They only stop when the young larvae reach pupil stage. Once the queen lays its eggs, the ants start marching again.
Beautiful butterflies fill the forest, but at one time these insects weren’t so pretty. Butterflies start out as caterpillars, which tend to be a tad on the ugly side. They go through metamorphosis, which is the process of changing into a butterfly. Centipedes aren’t so lucky. They don’t turn into butterflies, but instead roam the forest looking for food. Some centipedes use poison to kill their prey.
(ii) Tropical Rain Forest Birds:
The birds of the rain forest are the most beautiful in the world. A wide range of colors can be seen darting through the trees as the forest tops come to life. Many species of tropical birds are kept as pets because of their looks.
Hundreds of species of parrot live in the rain forest. The scarlet macaw is just one of these. It is also one of the longest, stretching to a length of 3 feet from its head to the tip of its tail. When these macaws eat a poisonous fruit, they eat a special type of clay that neutralizes the poison.
Toucans are also very interesting birds. They have large beaks that they use to reach fruit they can’t get to. Scientists estimate there are 33 species of toucan in the rain forest. Not every tropical bird was blessed with looks. The hoatzin looks more like a peacock without the pretty tail.
Hoatzins are terrible flyers – crash landings are common practice. The brown kiwi is a flightless bird that looks more like a rodent with a long beak and feathers. Kiwis live on the ground instead of the trees. They have special claws used for running, digging and defence.
(iii) Tropical Rain Forest Mammals:
Birds aren’t the only creatures that fly through the rain forests. Several species of flying mammals live in the jungle. From the harmless fruit bat to the unique flying squirrel, the tropical rain forests are full of surprises.
The Indian flying fox is one of the largest bats in the world. Its wings can spread out to 5 feet in width. Unlike bats in other parts of the world, these bats do not live in caves. They prefer to .hang in trees during the day. Hundreds or even thousands of bats can be spotted in a single tree.
Vampire bats live in the Amazon jungle in South America. The famous stories of blood-sucking bats probably originated here. These bats do in fact drink the blood of their victims. They usually attack farm animals, but have also enjoyed the blood of humans. But vampire bats only drink a very small amount of fluid.
(iv) Tropical Rain Forest Reptiles:
The tropical rain forests of the world are full of reptiles. Reptiles are cold blooded, which means their body temperature depends on their environment. So, it is important for them to stay in warm climates. Snakes are reptiles, and the rain forests are home to many. The mamba family is the most poisonous of all. They kill their prey by injecting poison with their sharp fangs.
Anacondas make up another snake family. They are some of the longest creatures in the world, as they can reach 30 feet in length. Anacondas prefer to wrap themselves around their prey and squeeze, rather than inject poison. Anacondas swallow their prey whole and sleep while the food is digesting. Chameleons are interesting lizards that can change color.
This enables them to blend in with their surroundings. Not only is this a great disguise from predators, it is also an easy way to sneak up on their prey. Chameleons only eat insects. Geckos are very neat creatures. The flying gecko can glide from tree to tree to escape from predators. Their grip is so strong, that if you tried to pull one off a window, the glass would break before the gecko would let go.
(v) Tropical Rain Forest Primates:
Monkeys and their cousins are all primates. Humans are also primates. There are many species of monkeys in the tropical rain forests of the world. Monkeys can be divided into two groups: new world monkeys and old world monkeys. New world monkeys live only in South and Central America. Spider monkeys live in the rain forests in the Andes Mountains.
They look very strange with their long noses. Spider monkeys eat mostly fruit and nuts, so they are called frugivores. They are joined by the howler monkeys. These primates are so named because they have a special sac that makes their sounds louder.
Old world monkeys live only in Africa and Asia. The colobus monkey is one such kind. These monkeys are called foliovores because they eat leaves. They live in small groups of 15, but other primates live in larger groups of up to 200. There are too many species. Chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas are all called pongids. These primates are more famous than the others. Gorillas are too big to climb trees, so they are found on the forest floor.
(c) Boreal or Taiga Forests:
The boreal forest ecosystem is the contiguous green belt of conifer and deciduous trees that encircles a large portion of the Northern Hemisphere. In North America, the boreal forest stretches across most of northern Canada and into Alaska. It has long been identified as one of the world’s great forest ecosystems.
This forest ecosystem covers roughly 35% of Canada’s land mass and is the single largest land based ecosystem in North America. It also contains a significant proportion of Canada’s biodiversity and has long been recognized as an important global carbon sink.
Although the boreal is relatively unknown, it is important as the “great lung” of North America, “breathing in” carbon dioxide and “exhaling” oxygen into the atmosphere. In short, the boreal forest manages to do what the rain forest of the Amazon does but with only the fraction of the flora and fauna.
This forest ecosystem houses the largest and smallest mammal species (wood bison & pygmy shrews) of the North American continent. The Boreal forest has many things: great lakes and northern rivers; vast bogs, fens and other organic wetlands. The rich wildlife diversity of the Boreal is a joy to behold: woodland caribou and lynx; whooping cranes and wood bison; northern owls; woodpeckers with three rather than four toes; colorful wood warblers.
The Boreal has more than 5,000 species of conspicuous and colorful fungi, celebrated far more in Scandinavia and Siberia than in North America. Then there are the precious old-growth forests, the richest and most biologically diverse of the Boreal forest communities that are essential for so many Boreal species.
Structure of Forest Ecosystems:
Different organisms exist within the forest layers. These organisms interact with each other and their surroundings. Each organism has a role or niche in sustaining the ecosystem.
Some provide food for other organisms; others provide shelter or control populations through predation:
All living organisms’ intake energy in order to survive. In a forest ecosystem, trees and other plants get their energy from sunlight. Plants produce their own food, in the form of carbohydrates. Plants are, therefore, called the primary producers, since they produce the basic foodstuffs for other organisms within food chains and food webs. Photosynthesis is the chemical reaction that allows plants to produce their own food.
Animals cannot produce their own food. They must consume food sources for die energy they need to survive. All animals, including mammals, insects, and birds, are called consumers. Consumers rely on plants and other animals as a food source. Details of these animals in a forest ecosystem have been given earlier.
Primary consumers only eat plants and are referred to as herbivores. Secondary consumers are referred to as carnivores and feed on herbivores. Tertiary consumers are carnivores that feed on other carnivores. Omnivores eat both plant and animal matter.
Leaves, needles, and old branches fall to the forest floor as trees grow. Eventually all plants and animals die. So what happens to all of this plant and animal material? Does it sit on the forest floor forever? Thankfully no. These materials are decomposed by worms, microbes, fungi, ants, and other bugs.
Decomposers break these items down into their smallest primary elements to be used again. Decomposers are important in that they sustain the nutrient cycle of ecosystems.
Humans are part of Forest Ecosystem:
Humans are consumers. We get food and materials from forests. Because of this, we are a part of the forest ecosystem. Human consumption alters forest ecosystems. Human intervention may be necessary to sustain forest communities under the increased pressure of human use.