Features of a Forest Ecosystem

••• forest image by Sean Gladwell from Fotolia.com

An ecosystem is defined as a community of animals, plants and microorganisms that survive and interact with one another on the same environment. Ecosystems can be small and large. One example is a forest ecosystem which is inhabited by living things coexisting with physical factors of the environment, such as temperature, sunlight and oxygen. The forest ecosystem depends on the availability of major resources to thrive.

Forest canopy

The forest canopy is an important feature of a forest ecosystem. It pertains to the top portion of a community of trees or plant crowns. A forest canopy serves as the interface between the atmosphere and the land. The canopy is also the upper habitat for other biological organisms in a forest ecosystem. It is mostly composed of large trees. The structure of forest canopy is not the same in every forest ecosystem because it depends on the availability of nutrients, tree arrangement and differences in biological species. More than half of the plant species are found in a forest ecosystem, so the biodiversity is greatest in the forest canopy. Most organisms are able to survive in forest canopy because it is directly exposed to sunlight and rainwater.

Forest floor

The forest floor is the most distinct feature of a forest ecosystem. It is composed of fallen leaves, stems, twigs, branches and bark on the surface of the soil. A forest floor also contains organic and inorganic substances. Many living organisms, such as the fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms, inhabit the forest floor. It is rich in nutrients and mineral contents. The forest floor has a significant role in the transfer of nutrients in the life cycle of the forest ecosystem. Most of the carbon and energy from the forest ecosystem is added to the forest floor over time. The majority of nutrients of the forest ecosystem comes from the forest floor due to the decomposition of organic substances.

Forest soil

The soil is a feature of a forest ecosystem that is affected by the changes in climate, geology, amount of rainfall and vegetation. The soil of temperate forests is more fertile because trees' leaves drop to the ground every fall. This litter contributes to the layers of organic material found in forest soil. The old leaves become a source of food for bacteria and fungi. These organisms facilitate the breaking down of the leaves and other organic material. Decomposition enriches the forest soil as it provides more nutrients to the living trees and plants in the forest ecosystem. However, the soil in tropical rain forests has poor quality because of the torrential rains. The constant rain erodes and dissolves soil nutrients before the trees can benefit from them.


  • Oracle ThinkQuest: Soil
  • "Forest Biodiversity: Lessons from History for Conservation"; O Honnay, K Verheyen, B Bossuyt, and M Hermy; 2004

About the Author

Eric Bagai is a senior writer in the high-technology field, to which he can offer more than seven years of experience as a copywriter. He has written several articles for eHow and holds a Master of Arts in creative writing from Oregon State University.

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