Meaning: A forest ecosystem is a community of organisms that lives within a forest. A forest is usually defined as a large group of trees.
However, other important aspects of a forest are the shrubs, the leaf mulch on the floor and the plants that live in tandem with the trees.
A forest ecosystem is not just about the forest environment, however. It is also about the animals that live in the forest. For example, birds nest in the trees of a forest, members of the fungus kingdom grow on the forest floor, and a variety of insects and mammals also take up their homes in a forest.
An ecosystem can be defined as a community that is relatively self-contained. So, a forest ecosystem is an ecosystem that is distinct, with distinct boundaries. We will clearly be able to see where the forest ecosystem begins and where it ends.
There are various types of forest ecosystem throughout the world. But, before we go in to more depth about forest ecosystems, let’s recap what we already know about them.
So, we have established that a forest ecosystem features:
- A distinct community of organisms, that…
- Lives in a forest, which can be defined as…
- A sizeable group of trees.
In this ecosystem we will find:
- Plant life and fungi, and
- Many different animals, birds and insects.
Types of forest ecosystem.
1. Rainforests: Some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, with the Amazon being a prime example. The north-eastern part of India is particularly rich in rainforests. Further, the tropical rainforests in India are found in Assam, Andaman and Nicobar islands, and Western Ghats, etc.
Rainforests tend to be humid inside, not just because they are often based around rivers. Water drips from the trees and humidity is contained within the forest environment thanks to thick canopies of leaves. Fantastically beautiful flowers and gorgeous birds and insects live here, as well as some rare mammals.
2. Mangroves: Mangroves are a unique mix of trees and tidal swamps. These fascinating forest ecosystems change greatly throughout the day. During part of the day they are dry and during much of the rest of the day they are waterlogged and home to crocodiles and other swamp creatures. These may be some of the most dynamic ecosystems in the world, for this very reason!
3. Inland forests: Here, you will find plenty of mainland animals and birds (such as foxes and owls). Inland forests can be vast and ancient, or they can be smaller, like copses.
4. The Taiga: The taiga is the name for the sparse forest right towards the polar regions of the world, where conditions can be very cold and quite harsh. In fact, many of the forest ecosystems in the Taiga are arctic or polar ecosystems.
5. Lakeside forests: Waterbirds and other water wildlife can be found in these forest ecosystems. These types of forest ecosystems tend to be very humid and the types of organisms that live in them reflect this.
6. Mountain forests: The forests that grow on mountains (such as mountain pines) help to create unique ecosystems. For example, the Himalayan mountain forests in India. The peaks of mountains tend to be cold and rocky and the organisms that live in forest ecosystems at the top of mountains tend to be very well adapted for life in harsh conditions.
Characteristic features of forest ecosystems.
Forest ecosystems are so rich and diverse, and they have so many exciting and fascinating features. Below, you will find a discussion of some of the key features of these ecosystems.
1. Seasonality: In countries that have seasonal climates, forest ecosystems will change with the seasons.
2. Deciduous or evergreen: A forest may be deciduous (i.e. it sheds its leaves in winter) or evergreen (i.e. its leaves stay green and intact all the time), or it may be a mix of both deciduous and evergreen trees.
3. Different levels: Some forest ecosystems such as rain forests, feature several distinct levels – such as the forest floor, the lower canopy, the upper canopy and the tree tops.
4. Attractive to birds: Many bird species nest in tree tops and this makes forest ecosystems attractive to birds.
5. Attractive to insects: Many insects live in tree bark, leaf mulch or flowers and as such they find forest ecosystems very attractive places to make their homes.
The importance of forest ecosystems.
Forest ecosystems are so important not just for the community close to the forest but for the whole world. Read on to find some reasons why.
1. The lungs of the world: The Amazon rain forest is described as a biotic pump – like a giant green lung that releases oxygen into the atmosphere and locks away carbon.
2. Ancient: Some of our forests are truly ancient, and much older than many human civilizations.
3. Biodiversity: All of our forest ecosystems are so important for biodiversity. In fact, biologists very often claim that they are still discovering new species in the Amazon rain forest on a regular basis.
4. Homes for humans: Forest ecosystems are not just habitats for animals. Many human communities, including indigenous communities, live in forests all over the world.
5. Protecting the earth: Forests keep the earth rich in minerals, protect it from desertification by providing a shield against winds, and so on.
As is clear from the discussion above, there are many different types of forest ecosystems on our planet. Rain forests are one example, but we also have arctic forests and inland forests. Each of them has its own characteristics, and each type of forest ecosystem is truly unique.
Human driven climate change, deforestation and over-consumption is posing a continued threat to the forest ecosystems of this planet. It is very important that we act right now to protect these beautiful, fragile and mysterious ecosystems for future generations. Forest ecosystems are not just valuable in their own right, they are also crucial for maintaining the health of the planet as a whole.
Forest ecosystems are some of the most exciting and beautiful in the world. In fact, many of them are so mysterious to us that even the world’s most expert biologists tell us that they are still discovering new species in some of the world’s largest forest ecosystems.