May 18

Visit our new eco-region page exploring the eastern deciduous forest of North America. Once an unbroken swathe of imposing trees that stretched from northern New England, south to central Florida and west to the Mississippi River, it has since been subjected to intensive human cultivation. Despite this, the eastern deciduous forest still maintains a rich diversity of flora and fauna and a remarkable variety of landscapes.

Supported by HSBC as part of their HSBC Climate Partnership, ARKive’s new eastern deciduous forest eco-region pages feature a multitude of stunning images and videos of the diverse habitats and spectacular species that can be found there.

Photo of Eastern deciduous forest canopy in early autumn

Eastern deciduous forest canopy in early autumn

Part of a major biome

The eastern deciduous forest forms part of one of the major biomes on Earth, the temperate deciduous forests. Deciduous forests are dominated by broad-leaved plants that are ill-suited to enduring the harsh temperatures of winter, and so shed their vulnerable foliage each autumn.

Photo of Eastern deciduous forest interior

Eastern deciduous forest interior

The eastern deciduous forest is often divided into a varying number of smaller regions, each being characterised by two or three dominant tree species, from the northern hardwood forest in the north, to the oak-hickory and beech-maple forests further south.

Awesome animals

American red squirrel photo

The American red squirrel feeds mainly on seeds, conifer cones and nuts, but will also bite into maple trees to feed on the sugary sap.

Around 43 species of mammal occupy the eastern deciduous forest, the majority of which occur in the northern two-thirds of the region. Most of these are rodents such as the American red squirrel and insectivores (shrews and moles) which generally forage on the rich forest floor.

Photo showing black bear colour variation

Despite its common name, the black bear exhibits considerable variation in colouration, both among individuals from a single litter, and between populations from separate geographical regions.

 

However, larger mammals can also be found in the eastern deciduous forest, such as the American black bear, striped skunk, northern raccoon and the white-tailed deer.

 

Bald eagle photo

The second largest North American bird of prey after the Californian condor, the bald eagle is also the only eagle solely native to North America.

The bird life in the eastern deciduous forest is equally diverse and impressive. Birds of prey, such as the northern goshawk and bald eagle may be seen soaring over the canopy searching for food, while the wild turkey is likely to be found foraging on the ground for acorns, seeds, berries and insects.

Red-cheeked salamander photo

Although the red-cheeked salamander is thought to be fairly abundant with a stable population, it has an extremely small range, meaning it is vulnerable to destructive changes to its habitat.

The eastern deciduous forest contains an impressive diversity of woodland salamander species found nowhere else in the world. This includes the red-cheeked salamander which occurs amongst leaf litter on forested slopes in the Appalachian Mountains.

Impressive plant life

Sugar maple photo

Sugar maple with leaves changing colour in autumn.

More than 110 species of tree occur in the eastern deciduous forest, of which about 75 percent are deciduous. Different trees dominate in each region of the forest. For example, the northern hardwood forest, around the Canadian border, is dominated by yellow birch, American beech and sugar maple. In autumn this region turns into a beautiful patchwork of reds and oranges.

Photo of spinulose wood ferns

Spinulose wood ferns on the floor of eastern deciduous forest

In addition to the variety of trees, hundreds of wildflowers and other herbaceous and woody species blanket the floor of the eastern deciduous forest.

Why help protect the eastern deciduous forest?

Over the last two centuries, most of the eastern deciduous forest has been logged, burned or cleared for farming, meaning very few areas of primary forest with towering, wide-trunked trees actually remain. Threats to the eastern deciduous forest are still prevalent, including air pollution and global climate change, so it is therefore crucial that we try to conserve what is left of it.

Visit our eastern deciduous forest pages to learn more about this stunning eco-region!

  • Harriet (May 19th, 2011 at 3:11 pm):

    Love the new HSBC eco-modules, well done to all the team! And the new spp pics on ARKive home page look fab too.