Deciduous forests once stretched from New England south to Florida and from the Atlantic Coast west to the Mississippi River. When European settlers arrived and in the New World, they began clearing timber for use as fuel and building materials. Timber was also used in ship making, fence building, and railroad construction.
As the decades passed, forests were cleared on an ever-expanding scale to make way for agricultural land use and the development of cities and towns. Today, only fragments of the former forests remain with strongholds along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains and within national parks.
The eastern deciduous forests of North America can be divided into four regions:
1. Northern hardwoods forests include species such as white ash, bigtooth aspen, quaking aspen, American Basswood, American beech, yellow birch, northern white cedar, black cherry, American elm, eastern hemlock, red maple, sugar maple, northern red oak, jack pine, red pine, white pine, red spruce.
2. Central broad-leaved forests include species such as white ash, American basswood, white basswood, American beech, yellow birch, yellow buckeye, flowering dogwood, American elm, eastern hemlock, bitternut hickory, mockernut hickory, shagbark hickory, black locust, cucumber magnolia, red maple, sugar maple, black oack, blackjack oak, bur oak, chestnut oak, northern red oak, post oak, white oak, common persimmon, white pine, tulip poplar, sweetgum, black tupelo, black walnut.
3. Southern oak-pine forests include species such as eastern red cedar, flowering dogwood, bitternut hickory, mockernut hickory, shagbark hickory, red maple, black oak, blackjack oak, northern red oak, scarlet oak, southern red oak, water oak, white oak, willow oak, loblolly pine, longleaf pine, sand pine, shortleaf pine, slash pine, Virginia pine, tulip poplar, sweetgum, and black tupelo.
4. Bottomland hardwood forests include species such as green ash, river birch, yellow buckeye, eastern cottonwood, swamp cottonwood, bald cypress, box elder, bitternut hickory, honey locust, southern magnolia, red maple, silver maple, cherrybark oak, live oak, northern pin oak, overcup oak, swamp chestnut oak, pecan, pond pine, sugarberry, sweetgum, American sycamore, swamp tupelo, water tupelo.
The eastern deciduous forests of North America provide habitat for a variety of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates. Some of the mammals found in this region include mice, shrews, woodrats, squirrels, cottontails, bats, martens, armadillos, opossums, beavers, weasels, skunks, foxes, raccoons, black bear, bobcats, and deer. Some of the birds that occur in the eastern deciduous forests include owls, hawks, waterfowl, crows, doves, woodpeckers, warblers, vireos, grosbeaks, tanagers, cardinals, jays, and robins.