The Temperate Deciduous Forest is a habitat defined by four seasons, moderate amounts of precipitation and trees that loose their leaves in the fall called deciduous trees. The average temperature in a Temperate Forest is 50°F and the habitat receives approximately 30-60 inches of precipitation per year. Georgia receives about 50 inches of rain a year and the average temperature in Atlanta is 61°F. 66% of Georgia’s land is forested, which is double the national average!
There are 4 distinct seasons in a temperate deciduous forest. During the fall the trees lose their leaves and in the spring they re-grow them. Before losing their leaves in the fall, the leaves change color to yellow, red, brown and orange. Scientists believe the color change is due to the decreased amount of daylight, which causes the leaves to quit producing chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the green pigment in leaves that is used in photosynthesis, which is the process through which a plant makes food. As the winter months approach, the days get shorter and there is not enough sunlight or water for photosynthesis to occur. Since the tree is no longer making food, chlorophyll is no longer needed. In order to conserve energy and water, trees shed their leaves. During the winter months, the trees rest and live off of food they have stored.
Animals also find ways to adapt to the chilly temperatures and lack of food during the winter. Bears, bugs, bats and other creatures hibernate and birds, butterflies, and some mammals migrate to warmer climates. Active animals will grow thicker fur and store food to last throughout the cold season. To learn more about opossums, chipmunks and raccoons click on the links below.
Most Temperate Deciduous Forests have a six month growing season and fertile soil. The fertility of the soil is due to the decomposition of fallen leaves, decaying logs, and dead organisms. Earthworms, millipedes and other soil animals assist with decomposition, which adds nutrients to the soil. Unfortunately, due to the rich soil and the long growing season many Temperate Deciduous Forests have been cut down for farming purposes.
Storza Woods, located at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, is transitioning into a secondary forest. Before the Civil War, Storza Woods was terraced agricultural fields. Later, the Piedmont Driving Club owned Storza Woods and used it for carriage rides and then car rides. It is believed that the road system they used is very similar to the layout of the main mulch paths present in Storza Woods today. After the Depression the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built drainage and stone culverts, which the Atlanta Botanical Garden plans to eventually renovate. Eventually, the land was sold back to the city and was included in the lease to the Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG) when it was incorporated in 1976.
The Garden has done a lot of work in Storza Woods to remove invasive or harmful plants and to improve the health of important plants. Garden staff removed invasive exotics, such as kudzu, Japanese honeysuckle, privet and others and although poison ivy is a native plant, it is was also removed in order to ensure the safety of guests. In addition to removing harmful and invasive plants, the staff monitors tree health, and when necessary the trees are pruned, watered, fertilized or removed. Storza Woods has greatly improved over the past five years with selective removal of weakened trees and the planting of 785 additional ones to rejuvenate the forest canopy. The Canopy Walk will reveal a new perspective to Garden members and visitors.