There generally are three main types of forests — tropical, temperate and boreal — and each forest has its own species of animals and plants. Within these forests also are many subdivisions and classifications that take into account rainfall, soil composition and temperature. All of these factors determine the various kinds of species found in the forests.
Tropical forests are located near the equator and have by far the most diverse forest species. Tropical forests cover just 7 percent of the land in the world but contain more than half of the world’s animal and plant species. The variety of species includes about 125 mammals, 400 birds, 150 butterflies, 750 trees and 1,500 flowering plants.
Among the plants in tropical forests are ferns, mosses, orchids, vines and palms. Some specific species of animals include boa constrictors, jaguars, lemurs and spider monkeys. Many types of small mammals, bats, birds, reptiles and insects round out the wide variety of animal species.
Some species in the tropical forest are in danger of becoming extinct, primarily because of the destruction of this kind of forest by people who cut it down or develop it. Roughly half of the world’s tropical forests have been destroyed. Among the endangered species are orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas, toucans, parrots, Bengal tigers and manatees.
Temperate forests are found in North America, western and central Europe and northeastern Asia, in areas characterized by distinct changes in seasons. Trees common to temperate forests are maple, oak, hemlock, beech, hickory, elm, cottonwood and willow. Herbs that flower in the spring also are common. The more common animal forest species are deer, timber wolves, fox, black bear, mountain lions, rabbits, skunks, squirrels and birds.
Boreal forests have the least variety of forest species, partly because they exist in extremely cold climates. These forests are found in Siberia, Scandinavia, Alaska, Canada and North America, where the winters are long and cold. The most common types of flora in these forests are evergreens such as fir, spruce and pine. Among the animal forest species are wolves, bears, moose, weasels, chipmunks, hares, foxes, deer and bats. Continued logging of boreal forests threaten to further deplete their trees.
Conditions can be tough on forest species in the boreal forests. In the coldest areas, trees grow just a few short weeks of the year. Plants also grow slowly, prompting some of the animals to have to roam long distances to find ample food.