Temperate Forests: Climate, Locations, Wildlife

Temperate deciduous forest in autumn

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The temperate forest biome is one of the world's major habitats. Temperate forests are characterized as regions with high levels of precipitation, humidity, and a variety of deciduous trees Decreasing temperatures and shortened daylight hours in fall mean decreased photosynthesis for plants. Thus, these trees shed their leaves in fall and bud new leaves in spring when warmer temperatures and longer hours of daylight return.

This article explores the key characteristics of the temperature forest, include average temperatures, wildlife presence, and more.


Temperate forests have a wide range of temperatures that correlate with the distinctive seasons. Temperatures range from hot in the summer, with highs of 86 degrees F, to extremely cold in the winter, with lows of -22 degrees F. Temperate forests receive abundant amounts of precipitation, usually between 20 and 60 inches of precipitation annually. This precipitation is in the form of rain and snow.


Given the climate needs, deciduous forests are typically found in the Northern Hemisphere. Some locations of temperate forests include:

  • Eastern Asia
  • Central and Western Europe
  • Eastern United States


Due to abundant rainfall and thick soil humus, temperate forests are able to support a wide variety of plant life and vegetation. This vegetation exists in several layers, ranging from lichens and mosses on the ground layer to large tree species like oak and hickory that stretch high above the forest floor. Other examples of temperate forest vegetation include:

  • Forest canopy tier: Maple trees, walnut trees, birch trees
  • Small tree tier: Dogwoods, redbuds, shadbush
  • Shrub tier: Azaleas, mountain laurel, huckleberries
  • Herb tier: Blue bead lily, Indian cucumber, wild sarsaparilla
  • Floor tier: Lichens and mosses

Mosses are nonvascular plants that play an important ecological role in the biomes they inhabit. These small, dense plants often resemble green carpets of vegetation. They thrive in moist areas and help to prevent soil erosion and also serve as a source of insulation during colder months.

Unlike mosses, lichens are not plants. They are the result of symbiotic relationships between algae or cyanobacteria and fungi. Lichens are important decomposers in this environment littered with decaying plant material. Lichens help to recycle plant leaves, thus generating the fertile soil in this biome.


Temperate forests are home to a diverse wildlife biosystem including various insects and spiders, wolves, foxes, bears, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, eagles, rabbits, deer, skunks, squirrels, raccoons, squirrels, moose, snakes, and hummingbirds.

Temperate forest animals have many different ways to deal with the cold and lack of food in winter. Some animals hibernate during the winter and arise in spring when food is more plentiful. Other animals store food and burrow underground to escape the cold. Many animals escape the harsh conditions by migrating to warmer regions in winter.

Other animals have adapted to this environment by blending in with the forest. Some camouflage themselves as leaves, looking almost indistinguishable from the foliage. This type of adaptation comes in handy for both predators and prey.

More Land Biomes

Temperate forests are one of many biomes. Other land biomes of the world include:

  • Chaparrals: Characterized by dense shrubs and grasses, this biome experiences dry summers and damp winters.
  • Deserts: Did you know that not all deserts are hot? In fact, Antarctica is the largest desert in the world.
  • Savannas: This large grassland biome is home to some of the fastest animals on the planet.
  • Taigas: Also called boreal forests or coniferous forests, this biome is populated by dense evergreen trees.
  • Temperate grasslands: These open grasslands are located in colder climate regions than savannas. They are found on every continent except for Antarctica.
  • Tropical rainforests: Located near the equator, this biome experiences hot temperatures year round.
  • Tundra: As the coldest biome in the world, tundras are characterized by extremely cold temperatures, permafrost, treeless landscapes, and slight precipitation.
Frequently Asked Questions
  • Where are temperate forest biomes found in the world?

    Temperate forests cover most of the U.S. and Europe and occupy a large portion of Asia. They occur at latitudes between 25 and 50 degrees in both hemispheres.

  • What do temperate forest land biomes look like?

    Temperate forests look like continuous canopy of deciduous, broad-leaved trees. Temperate forest land biomes change with the seasons—they lose their leaves in the fall but appear lush and green in the summer.

  • How does climate change impact temperate forests?

    The changing climate has already impacted temperate forests in a variety of ways. Everything from insect outbreaks to wildfires has become more frequent and extreme. "These disturbances can reduce forest productivity and change the distribution of tree species," the Environmental Protection Agency says.

  • How many land biomes are there in the world?

    Some say there are as few as four and as many as 11 land biomes on the planet. The most widely agreed-upon answer is seven: temperate forests, deserts, tundra, tropical rainforests, boreal forests, grasslands, and savannas.

View Article Sources
  1. "Climate Impacts on Forests." United States Environmental Protection Agency.