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Student Resource Page: Sorting Out the Differences

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Tropical Rainforest

Tropical rainforests can be found in Central and South America and other regions of the world that are warm and wet all year, with little seasonal change. These conditions are ideal for rapid and lush plant growth. Tropical rainforests have the widest variety of plants and animals of any forests in the world.

Tropical Dry Forest

Tropical dry forests are found in areas of Mexico and other regions that are warm year-round, but that have a long dry season each year. Trees must be able to survive these periods of low rain and moisture. Many tree species drop their leaves in the driest months, which reduces moisture loss.

Southern Pine Forest

Pine forests of the southeastern United States thrive where the summers are long, hot, and humid, and where most precipitation comes as summer rain. While an occasional winter storm may come through, snow seldom stays on the ground for more than a day or two.


The California climate where chaparral grows is fairly warm for at least 8 months of the year. Most of the rainfall comes during the moist, mild winters, while summers are hot and dry. Trees and shrubs often have thick bark and leathery evergreen leaves to conserve moisture during the dry season.

Temperate Rainforest

The forests on the west side of the Olympic peninsula in Washington state are drenched each year in over 12 feet of rain coming off the Pacific Ocean. Winters can be snowy, but summers are generally dry. Here, giant cone-bearing trees tower over the landscape while ferns and moss cloak the trees and forest floor.

Hardwood Forest

Much of the northeastern United States is home to oak, elm, sugar maple, aspen, and other hardwood forests. Here, it is cold in the winter and warm in the summer. Snow is common in the winter, and summers can be humid with occasional thunderstorms.

Southwestern Desert

The desert areas of the southwestern United States have low rainfall and hot summer temperatures. Winters can be quite cold and some of the yearly precipitation may come as snow. Plants here -- like sagebrush -- are adapted to living with little moisture and wide variations in temperature.

Taiga Forest

Taiga forests are made up of evergreen, cone-bearing trees and grow where winters are long, snowy, and very cold. Summers in the taiga are short and may see only 50 to 100 days without frost. In North America, the taiga forest stretches from Alaska and across Canada to Newfoundland.

Great Plains

The Great Plains region of North America reaches from Canada down to Mexico. The weather here is wildly unpredictable -- with possible blizzards in winter, flash floods in spring, and tornadoes in summer. While not as dry as a desert, much of the region is too dry for trees. Grasses and shrubs are most common.

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