This is a forest of angiosperms, the flowering plants. We find fruit trees and berry bushes growing wild here, along with insects to pollinate them. Although these forests may go through mixed stands with conifers, the conifers gradually disappear as changes in rainfall and climate favor deciduous trees.

     The deciduous forest supports a diverse ecology. A warm growing season with abundant moisture encourages plants to grow, and the ground is covered with small plants, flowers, ferns, and grasses. In spring the trees and shrubs produce new leaves and colorful flowers. In summer the tall trees cast shade on the forest floor, providing ideal growing conditions for shade-tolerant plants. Seeds and berries provide for plant reproduction, and feed small rodents and birds. The leaves that fall in the autumn provide plenty of material for decomposers, soil bacteria, worms, grubs, and fungi. All these plants together are the primary producers.

      There are occasional open areas where there is grass and sunshine, and streams thread their ways down the mountains, providing microclimates for newts, frogs, and fishes.

          The primary consumers in this system include insects, birds, rodents and deer. There are many different kinds of insects, including caterpillars that eat the leaves and later turn into butterflies or moths. Rodents such as squirrels, wood mice, and ground squirrels eat plants and their seeds. Deer browse on the shrubs, grasses, and the leaves on the lower limbs of trees. Birds eat seeds and berries, and many eat insects as well.

     The predators (secondary consumers) include foxes and owls (who eat the rodents) and birds, skunks and opposums, who eat insects. The woods ring with the sound of woodpeckers hammering trees in search of grubs.

       The top predator (tertiary consumers), the cougar, preys on deer and smaller animals.

        Bears are omnivores and eat anything organic that they can get. They eat some grass, berries, and mushrooms, but also need some high energy protein food such as small animals and carrion (dead animals).

       This food chain has four trophic levels: primary producers (plants), primary consumers (herbivores), secondary consumers, and a tertiary consumer, the cougar. Contrast this with food webs in the tundra and the deserts. Notice that this biome produces 6000 Kilocalories of plant tissue per square meter per year. It is productive and supports many species of plants and animals, only a few of which have been mentioned here.

The Deciduous Forest

A Deciduous Forest Energy Pyramid

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© Elizabeth Anne Viau, 1999. This material may be used freely for instructional purposes but not sold for a price beyond the cost of reproduction. Please inform the author if you use it at