Plant & animal adaptations in temperate forests

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Plant & animal adaptations in temperate forests
Temperate forests offer a haven to plants and animals. (Thomas Northcut/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Temperate forests exist all over the world. There are two types of temperate forests. The largest temperate biome, the temperate deciduous biome, exists in North America, Western Europe, Asia and Australia. The much smaller temperate rainforest only exists along the northwest coast of North America, and small portions of the Chilean, New Zealand and Australian coasts.

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Deciduous Forest Plants

The plants of a temperate deciduous forest adapt to the biome in a variety of ways, depending on the type of plant. The trees grow large leaves to absorb the most possible light during the growing season. The bark of deciduous trees is thicker and heartier than tropical trees to protect the inner core during long, hard winters. Smaller plants, such as flowers and ferns, grow early in the spring with long, quick-growing leaves. This allows the plant to absorb as much sunlight as possible before the forest trees leaf and block the full strength of the sun.

Deciduous Forest Animals

Because the temperate biome has four distinct seasons, animals spend much of the growing season preparing for winter. Small animals, such as squirrels and chipmunks, gather nuts and seeds, storing them in hollow logs or holes in the ground. Larger mammals, such bears, woodchucks and raccoons, spend the summer eating as much as possible. The weight they gain during the summer and fall allow these animals to hibernate during the winter when the weather is cold and food is scarce. Many birds migrate away from the temperate biome to warmer climates.

Rainforest Plants

Temperate rainforests receive more than 100 inches of rain every year. So in the rainforest, plants must adapt to the moist environment. The trees grow bark that protects the inner core from cold temperature, while protecting the tree from parasitic fungi. Rainforests grow a startling variety of fungi on trees, rocks and the earth. These take the form of mushrooms, shelf fungi and ball fungi.

Rainforest Animals

Like their cousins in the deciduous forest, temperate rainforest animals must spend much of the warm seasons preparing for winter. But because of the high rainfall, the animals must also grow thicker coats that protect them from the moisture. Larger mammals, such as deer, are smaller and have shorter antlers than deer in other biomes. This adaptation gives them the ability to move freely in the underbrush. Larger carnivores, such as wolves and wildcats, grow thicker pelts in the fall to protect the animals during the cold winter months.

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