Biomes are areas of the world that have a certain type of climate (rainfall and temperature) and vegetation.
The climate determines the type of plants and animals that live in the biome. Pennsylvania is located in the
temperate deciduous forest biome. A deciduous forest is made up of trees that lose their leaves in the winter. The
temperate deciduous forest biome has long growing seasons, mild winters, and regular rainfall (mostly during the
spring and summer months).
Hardwood, deciduous trees are the dominant form of vegetation found in PA. Other vegetation includes
shrubs, bushes, and wildflowers.
Within our state, there are several different types of habitats. A habitat can be either terrestrial (ground)
or aquatic (water). A habitat must provide organisms with food, shelter, water, and space. A habitat that provides a
large variety of food and shelter will encourage more biodiversity within that habitat.
Mixed Deciduous Forest
Deciduous forests are habitats that thrive in a mild climate with plenty of water. Approximately
60% of Pennsylvania is made up of forests. Oak, beech, maple, birch, black gum and tulip poplar make up most of the
trees in the forest. Pine and hemlock can also be found (coniferous trees). Common understory includes smaller
trees, bushes and shrubs and ground plants include many species of wildflowers. These plants provide shelter for
birds as well as other wildlife.
Forest Edge
An edge is an area where two habitats come together, such as where a forest meets a field. These places
provide a diversity of food and shelter. Many bird species will nest in forest trees and use the neighboring field to
find seeds and insects.
Grasses and wildflowers can be found in fields. In Pennsylvania, most fields are either agriculture fields or
are abandoned agriculture fields that are transitioning and becoming forested areas.
Wetlands and Ponds
Wetlands are areas that are regularly flooded or wet. There are many different kinds of wetlands and they
are classified according to type of vegetation, soil, and the amount of water. Some wetlands include swamps, bogs,
vernal pools, and cattail marshes. Ponds are small areas of shallow open water. Ponds and wetlands are home to many
animals and provide food, shelter, and water to migratory birds as well as birds that remain in Pennsylvania all year.
Wetlands are also important because they slow down water to help prevent soil erosion. In addition,
pollutants often become trapped in wetland sediment instead of washing downstream where they can have a negative
impact on streams, rivers, and oceans.
Streams and Rivers
Open and moving water make up rivers and streams. The edges of rivers, streams (and ponds) are called
riparian zones. These areas contain plants that grow best when their roots are wet. Riparian zones provide food,
shelter, space, and shade for a variety of wildlife. The plants that grow in riparian zones also help to prevent soil
erosion by trapping soil with their roots.
There are many types of neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods have a high concentration of people, houses,
and buildings with small backyards and few trees. These neighborhoods are often found in towns and cities.
In other neighborhoods, houses and buildings are surrounded by larger lawn areas, shrubs, and trees, which
provide food and shelter for wildlife. In neighborhoods that are closer to parks and natural areas, biodiversity
increases dramatically due to the additional food and shelter.