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LOCATION: Most temperate, deciduous (leaf-shedding) forests are located in the eastern United States, Canada, Europe, China, Japan, and parts of Russia. Deciduous forests are broken up into five zones. bThe firstzone is the tree stratum zone. It is the tallest zone and trees here range from 60 to 100 feet (18 to 30 meters) tall. Maple, elm, and oak trees are just some examples of trees found in this zone. The second zone is the small tree and sapling zone. Younger, shorter trees characterize this zone. The shrub zone is the third zone. Shrubs include mountain laurel, huckleberries, and many others. The fourth zone is the herb zone, and contains short herbal plants, like ferns. The Ground zone is the final zone where plants grow directly near the ground. Some plants that grow here are lichens and mosses.

WEATHER: This biome has four changing seasons including winter, spring, summer, and fall. These seasons happen because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis. Throughout the year, rays from the sun hit different parts of the world more directly than others, causing varying temperatures, or seasons. If the Earth were not tilted on an axis, temperatures around the globe would always be the same. Temperate deciduous forests also have quite a wet environment. Following rainforests, temperate deciduous forests are the second-rainiest biome. The average yearly precipitation is 30 - 60 inches (75 - 150 cm). This precipitation falls throughout the year, but in the winter it falls as snow. The average temperature in temperate deciduous forests is 50°F (10°C). Summers are mild, and average about 70°F (21°C), while winter temperatures are often well below freezing.

PLANTS: Trees and plants in deciduous forests have special adaptations to survive in this biome. Deciduous trees are trees with leaves rather than pine needles, and they dominate temperate forests. As the seasons change each year, so do the leaves. Each year deciduous trees loose their leaves, and grow them back. In the summer their broad green leaves capture sunlight and help the trees make food through photosynthesis. As temperatures cool in the fall, the chlorophyll (green pigment in leaves) breaks down, causing the beautiful red, yellow and orange leaf colors of fall. In the cold winter, deciduous trees and plants go into dormancy, kind of like sleep. It is too cold for them to protect their leaves from the damage of freezing in the winter, so they simply loose them and seal up the places where the leaves attach to the branch. The warmer spring days signal to the trees that they can grow new leaves again, and restart the cycle.

cANIMALS: Animals in temperate deciduous forests have to adapt to changing seasons. They must be able to cope with cold winters and hot summers. Some animals hibernate or migrate during the winter to escape the cold. Animals who do not hibernate or migrate must have special adaptations to deal with higher exposure to predators in the winter. When leaves fall, there is less cover for animals in this biome to hide from predators.a

The black bear is an animal that is well adapted for the temperate deciduous forest biome. It has a heavy coat made of many layers of fur to deal with the winter cold. Black bears have long claws that help them to climb trees.This is an essential adaptation because black bears often live in hollowed trees. Black bears are omnivores, so they eat plants and animals. Most of their diet is composed of plant material, so their long claws are useful to get their food from trees and shrubs. They also hibernate to avoid having to find food in the snowy, frozen winter.

PEOPLE AND THE TEMPERATE DECIDUOUS FOREST: Temperate forests are very important to people as they provide enjoyment as well as many resources including food, timber, and oxygen for us to breathe. However, we are also the cause of some major threats to this biome, one of which is acid rain. Acid rain caused by industrial and vehicle emissions damages the leaves of trees, and causes them to produce smaller and fewer seeds. It also reduces the trees' resistance to disease, pests, and frost. Clear cutting of forests is also a threat to this biome. Trees are cut for timber and land cleared for agriculture. Another problem associated with deciduous forests is the introduction of non-native plant and animal species because it upsets the balance of the forest ecosystem. Non-natives may compete for food and habitat space, possibly threatening the native species.

Although these threats may be worrisome, there are many things that you can do to help protect this unique biome. First of all, you can recycle. Trees are used to make the paper for paper bags, newspapers, printer paper, and many more products we use each day. If you recycle used paper, and make the effort to buy recycled paper, you will be reducing the need to cut down more trees. Also be sure to use both sides of the paper that you write on before you recycle it. Use cloth products instead of paper products, like napkins, towels, plates, and cups. These products can be washed and used again, which helps to save trees. Drive less, and carpool when possible. Car exhaust is one of the main contributors to acid rain. Walk or ride your bike to help keep our environment clean. If you are buying furniture, lumber, or any other wood product, look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label. This label indicates that the trees were grown in a well-managed forest. Learn more about forests. By reading, searching the Internet, and visiting temperate deciduous forests, you can learn lots of cool things about this biome. You can also teach other people about what you have learned. If we want to continue to enjoy temperate deciduous forests, the products that come from them, and protect the unique habitats within them, we must be sure to do our best to take care of this important biome.