Forests, Wetlands, Deserts
Mar 20, 2007
2:00/1:00 MT/PT
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     Forest Clipart
Idaho is the 14th largest state in the United States. It is about 300 miles wide, at its widest, and about 500 miles long. In the central and north central regions of Idaho and in the Panhandle there are national forests covering approximately two fifths of the state and constituting one of the largest areas of national forests in the nation. In addition, Idaho also has deserts and wetlands.
  These are all habitats.
Habitats are the natural environments of plants and animals. Earth has many different habitats, from oceans to tropical rain forests, equatorial deserts to Arctic tundra. Between these extremes are others, such as grasslands, forests, rivers, lakes, and wetlands.

     What makes one habitat different from another? A combination of many things creates a unique habitat—including temperature, soil, rainfall, light and geographic location. Let's learn about the Forests, Deserts and Wetlands of Idaho. Visit Dialogue4Kids previous topic,"Habitats."

Blooming Cactus  DESERTS
     Idaho has mainly a sagebrush steppe desert which includes the Great Basin sagebrush desert to the south of us covering much of Nevada and Utah, northeastern California, southeastern Oregon, and western Wyoming. This desert is the largest of four in North America, much of it above 4,000 in elevation. It is a cold desert characterized by cold winters and hot summers. Snow is a common sight in the winter, and moisture is limited to about 4 to 12 inches a year.      Wetlands provide critical habitat for numerous species, help clean our water, control floods, and provide plenty of food for humans.     
      Forested palustrine wetlands occur in areas with abundant moisture, such as in the mountains. In the Rockies, look for them on the west side of watershed divides. For example, forest wetlands occur more frequently on the Idaho side of the Bitterroot Mountains, which receive more precipitation than the Montana side.
     Burrowing OwlThe Great Basin Desert, covers an arid expanse of about 190,000 square miles and is bordered by the Sierra Nevada Range on the west and the Rocky Mountains on the east, the Columbia Plateau to the north and the Mojave and Sonoran deserts to the south.      If you walk into a forest wetland, you'd notice that the air is often cool, and the ground damp, if not soggy. Ferns and mosses may be abundant, and other understory plants thicker. Idaho's forest wetlands provide habitat for several species of salamanders, toads, and several frogs. The Coeur d'Alene salamander exists only in moist forest areas of northern Idaho where rocky areas meet the wetlands.
     This is a cool or "cold desert" due to its more northern latitude, as well as higher elevations. Precipitation is more evenly distributed throughout the year than in the other three North American deserts. Winter precipitation often falls as snow.

     StreamRiverine wetlands occur along streams, rivers, and irrigation canals throughout the United States. They are particularly noticeable in western states such as Idaho because they form ribbons of trees and shrubs in an otherwise arid landscape.

Follow this link to the Dialogue 4 Kids website about Deserts.
Follow this link to the Dialogue 4 Kids website about Wetlands.

Tall Pine TreeLet's take a hike into fascinating forests

How do you define a forest?
     It is a complex community of organisms, (in which trees are the dominant life-form) and their physical environment interacting as a unit. Forests cover almost 1/3 of the Earth's land. Five thousand years ago they covered over half the Earth. Forests have been and still are important for many reasons.

Why are Forests important?

     Healthy forests filter water, remove air pollution, sequester carbon, and provide homes for wildlife and plants. They prevent soil erosion and play a role in climate control. Forests are places of beauty and recreation, provide food, fuel and medicine for people all over the world. Probably most importantly, forests produce large amounts of oxygen that we need to breathe. Examine all the ways trees work for us.

Do you think that an Idaho forest are is much like a forest in Bolivia? No way! Forests are different all over the world.
Two things can help you determine what kind of forest you're looking at:
1. the climate (warm or cold)
2. the kinds of trees you see.

There are three major types of forests. They are determined by their latitude:
Read all about them.

tropical rainforests
temperate forests
Temperate Forest
Tropical forests occur near the equator. They have only two seasons (rainy and dry) and no winter. Tropical Rainforest Facts A tropical rain forest has a thick top layer called the canopy. This is where the tops of the trees meet to form a roof that does not allow much sunlight to reach the layers below.

Temperate forests occur in eastern North America, northeastern Asia, and western and central Europe. They also occur south of the Equator. They have 4 seasons including winter. Temperate forests consist of deciduous trees and sometimes evergreens.
      Expansive deciduous forests once covered the eastern half of what is now the United States, but much of this temperate climate forest has been cut down to clear land for crops and cities.
More about Deciduous Forests deciduous3/deciduous3.htm
Deciduous TreeDeciduous trees include maple, ash, oak, hickory, beech, and birch. They have colorful leaves which fall to the ground each fall.
Evergreens have needles instead of leaves. They never lose their needles which have a special waxy coating which protects them in winter.

Boreal forests, or taiga, occur between 50 and 60 degrees north latitudes. Boreal forests can be found in Eurasia and North America: two-thirds in Siberia and in Scandinavia, Alaska, and Canada. Taiga is the Earth's largest land habitat, covering about 17 percent of Earth.
More about
Boreal Forests
Summers are short, moist, and moderately warm. Winters are long, cold, and dry. Precipitation is usually snow. Taiga is filled with evergreens such as pine, fir, and spruce.
     Fauna include woodpeckers, hawks, moose, bear, weasel, lynx, fox, wolf, deer, hares, chipmunks, shrews, and bats.
FactOne large tree can provide a day's oxygen for four people!

Bobcat    Zoom in on:
animals of the temperate forest

animals of the taiga

animals of the tropical rainforest

Trees  Tree Trivia

A look at a tree cross section

Moose     One of the greatest threats to forests is fire. Fire can destroy not only the lives and homes of the forests' plants and animals, but those of the people who live nearby. Can a forest ever recover from a fire? Yes it can, but, it can take long time! An average forest of trees is about 70-100 years old. And trees in some forests can be 4,000-5,000 years old.
Find out more about how you can help forests and the environment.
Move to:      Forest: Links | Facts |       Desert: Facts | Links |      Wetlands: Facts | Links |
Move to Forests, Deserts, and Wetlands:    Glossary |    Resources |
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