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Deciduous Forest

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Deciduous Forest Photo © irina2005 / ShutterStock.

The term deciduous forest is used to describe a type of forest in which the dominant species of trees and other woody vegetation that make up the forest are those species that shed their leaves during the cold months of the year and re-grows new leaves the next spring in time for the growing season.

Deciduous forests occur in several regions throughout the world including eastern North America, the British Isles, eastern Europe, New Zealand, eastern Australia, and northeast Asia. These regions though diverse, share some characteristics. They all experience seasonal changes in temperature and precipitation. As a consequence, the trees found in deciduous forests are specially adapted to withstand these environmental changes throughout the year.

The tree species that occur in deciduous forests vary by region, but generally include species such as oak, beech, elm, walnut, sweet gum, linden, maple, chestnut, and hickory. Deciduous forests grow in areas where rainfall is sufficient to support tree growth (areas where too little rainfall occurs result in drier habitats such as grasslands and scrublands).

Deciduous forests are well suited to dealing with the extremes of temperate regions. After losing leaves in winter (when growing is restricted by the harshness of the climate), the trees enter a period of dormancy until the warmer weather returns and the growing season is once again underway.

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