What is a Forest Ecosystem? – Meaning and Types

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What is a Forest Ecosystem? – Meaning and Types

The word forest means a wooded area. This word comes from the Latin word forus which simply means outside (and it is where we get the English word foreign).

However, over the years, via the Latin phrase ‘forestis silva’ (which means a wood outside) the word forest came to mean a group of trees.

An ecosystem is an ecological system: i.e. a group of organisms (this can include animals and plants as well as birds, bacteria and insects) that live together as a community.

An ecosystem is usually a distinct system with its own special characteristics. So, a forest ecosystem is:

  • A community of organisms living together in a forest.
  • A distinct system, that can be defined as having certain distinctive characteristics.
  • Variable depending on where the forest is located.
  • Vulnerable to climate change and deforestation.
  • Important to protect.

What are the various types/forms of forest ecosystem?

There are many types of forests throughout the world. Below, you can find some of the main categories of forest ecosystem that are used by scientists. One thing to remember throughout this discussion is that trees in a forest can be either deciduous or evergreen. i.e. they can either shed their leave in autumn and grow them again in the spring or they will keep their flourishing leaves throughout the year.

Taiga: this thin, sparse forest exists at the extreme north of the world, in countries such as Canada and Finland and in the Arctic Circle. It is characterized by chilly conditions and the fact that the animals and birds and other organisms that live there have adapted to the cold. The taiga is a very ancient forest.

Rain forests: rain forests are huge, humid highly bio-diverse swathes of forest that are usually found within the global South. Due to the thick canopy created by their leaves, rain forests usually create their own mini ecosystem that seals off heat and humidity.

Boreal forests: boreal forests exist in the sub Arctic zones of the world (i.e. less far north than the Taiga). Here, you can find a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees and plenty of different animals, insects, birds and so on.

Forests of the temperate zone: located between the freezing cold of the polar zones and the scorching heat of the equator, the temperate zone is somewhere where forests can truly flourish. Some very ancient forests, such as the New Forest in Britain, are example of how in the temperate zone conditions are just right for huge amounts of biodiversity to occur. Again, in this zone, forests can be made of a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees – or of mainly one or mainly the other type of tree.


The world’s forest ecosystems are truly fascinating – and many of them are very ancient and mysterious to us as well. Indeed, scientists are still discovering new species in the Amazon with every month that passes! It is so important to look after our forests, and to take action right now to halt things like climate change and deforestation that threaten to destroy these beautiful and important ecosystems for good.

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