• Written By Sagarika Swamy
  • Last Modified 21-06-2023

Forest Ecosystem: Definition, Characteristics, and Functions


Forest Ecosystem: The terrestrial system in which living things such as trees, insects, animals, and people interact is referred to as a forest ecosystem. It is the smaller classification of the ecosystem as a whole, which is the biggest functional unit comprising all the geographical features and living organisms on Earth. There are many different kinds of forest ecosystems, and they are categorised according to the local climate, including the amount of rainfall and temperature.

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The most resilient ecosystem is found in forests since it is not significantly altered by weather, natural forces, or human activity. The ecosystem is made up of several species of wild animals, plants, and herbs, as well as various insects and microorganisms. This article provides comprehensive coverage of the subject in simple, understandable language. To learn more about the varieties of forests and their ecosystems, keep reading.

What is an Ecosystem?

A system formed by the interaction of all living organisms with each other and with physical and chemical factors of the environment in which they live, all linked by transfer of energy and material, is called an ecosystem.

Types of Ecosystem

There are two main ecosystems:

1. Terrestrial Ecosystems: Terrestrial ecosystems are classified into various types based on temperature and annual rainfall. A few examples of terrestrial ecosystems are listed below:
a. Grassland Ecosystems
b. Forest Ecosystems
c. Desert Ecosystems
d. Cropland Ecosystems

2. Aquatic Ecosystems: Aquatic ecosystems are majorly two types:
a. Freshwater/Inland Ecosystems
b. Marine/Saltwater Ecosystems

What Is a Forest Ecosystem?

A forest ecosystem is an ecosystem of forests and resources. Forests are renewable natural resources. Forests are formed by a group of plants that are structurally defined by their trees, shrubs, herbs, climbers, and ground cover. Soil, animals, insects, microorganisms, and birds are the most important interacting units of a forest ecosystem. In India, the forests occupy about 18-20% of the total land area.
1. Abiotic Components of the forest include inorganic and organic components present in the soil along with temperature, rainfall, light, etc.

2. Biotic Components are represented by producers, consumers, and decomposers.

What Are the Types of Forest Ecosystems?

There are a few types of forest ecosystems listed below:

1. Tropical Evergreen Rainforest: Only a small percentage of tropical forests are rainforests where average rainfall is 80-400 inches in a year. This forest is characterised by deep and dense vegetation consisting of tall trees reaching different levels.

2. Tropical Deciduous Rainforest: The main characteristic of tropical deciduous rainforest are broad-leaved trees along with dense bushes, shrubs, etc. Two main seasons – summer and winter – are distinctly visible there. This type of forest is found in many parts of the world. A large variety of flora and fauna are found here.

3. Temperate Evergreen Forest: Temperate evergreen forest is a type of forest that is characterised by a smaller number of trees but an adequate number of ferns and mosses.

4. Temperate Deciduous Forest: Temperate deciduous forest evolves in the moist temperate region with sufficient rainfall. Here also, winter and summer are well defined, and trees shed their leaves during winter. Dominant trees are maple, oak, peach, etc.

5. Taiga/Boreal: Situated just south of the Tundra, Taiga is characterised by evergreen conifers. The average temperature is below the freezing point for almost half of the year.

Components of Forest Ecosystem

1. Producers: Producers can synthesise their own food by the photosynthesis process. All green plants are considered producers of the ecosystem as they convert sunlight into the chemical energy of food.

2. Primary Consumers: Since the consumers can not prepare their own food, they depend on producers. Herbivorous animals get their food by eating the producers (plants) directly. Examples of primary consumers are grasshoppers, deer, etc.

3. Secondary Consumers: Secondary consumers draw their food from primary consumers.

4. Decomposers: The decomposers of the forest ecosystem break down dead plants and animals, returning the nutrients to the soil so that they can be used by the producers. Apart from bacteria, ants and termites are important decomposers in the Amazon rainforest. Millipedes and earthworms also help to break down dead matter.

5. Nutrient Cycle: The nutrient cycle is cyclic. For the proper functioning of ecosystems, nutrients are required. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen constitute about \(95\%\) of the mass of living organisms. About \(15\) to \(20\) other elements are also needed in relatively small amounts. These are recycled repeatedly between the living and non-living components of the ecosystem.

6. Energy Flow: In a forest ecosystem, the grass, which draws its nutrition from sun, soil and water, is eaten by the grasshopper, which in turn is eaten by frogs, snakes, and vultures in succession (different trophic levels). In this process of eating and being eaten, nutrients are passed from one step to the next in a food chain. The flow of energy that occurs along a food chain is called energy flow. The pyramid of energy represents the total quantity of energy at each trophic level of a food chain. The flow of energy is always unidirectional.

Characteristics of Forest Ecosystem

1. Warm temperatures and sufficient rainfall are characteristics of forests, resulting in the formation of numerous ponds, lakes, etc.
2. The forest maintains climate and rainfall.
3. The forest supports many wild animals and protects biodiversity.
4. The soil is rich in organic matter and nutrients, which support the growth of trees.

Functions of Forest Ecosystem

1. Goods Obtained from Forests: There are various types of food products such as honey, wild meat, fruits, mushrooms, palm oil and wine, and medicinal plants obtained from forests. Other than edible parts, we can obtain timber, wood biomass, cork, etc. from forests. The fuel can be extracted from old trees that are buried under the soil.

2. Ecological Functions: Forests play an important role in maintaining ecological factors such as climate, carbon storage, nutrient cycling, and rainfall.

3. Culture and Social Benefits: The tribal people who live in the forests treat forests as nature goddesses. The traditional beliefs and spirituality save wild animals from hunters and cutting down of trees by urban people. A few modern people visit forests for recreation.


Forest is a dense land covered with various plants and trees. There are three main types of forests: coniferous, deciduous, and tropical rain forests. Forests ecosystem are divided based on adequate rainfalls and temperature. The forest ecosystem is home to many animals and fully fills all the basic needs required such as wood, timber, medicinal plants, and so on. Forest helps in maintaining the oxygen and temperature levels of the atmosphere.

Forest ecosystem helps in preventing global warming. The water in the soil is absorbed by plants through roots. They release excess into the atmosphere, which helps in the occurrence of rainfall. Forest ecosystems prevent soil erosion and maintain the fertility of the soil.

FAQs on Forest Ecosystem

Q.1. What is a forest ecosystem?
A forest ecosystem refers to the dynamic interrelationship of plants, animals, and microorganisms with their abiotic environment existing as a functional unit. Trees are the key components of the forest system. Trees, shrubs, herbs, and climbers are present in plenty. Soil, animals, insects, birds, and man are also some of the important interacting units of a forest ecosystem.

Q.2. What are the 3 types of forest ecosystem?
The three types of ecosystem are as follows:

1. Temperate Forest Ecosystem
2. The Tropical Rainforest Ecosystem
3. Taiga/Boreal Forests

Q.3. What are the characteristics of forest ecosystem?
The characteristics of forest ecosystem are as follows:

1. Forests are characterised by warm temperatures and adequate rainfall.
2. The forest maintains climate and rainfall.
3. The forest supports many wild animals and protects biodiversity.
4. The soil is rich in organic matter and nutrients, which support the growth of trees.

Q.4. What are the components of the forest ecosystem?
The components of the forest ecosystem are soil, plants, animals, microorganisms, energy flow, nutrient cycle, etc.

Q.5. What is the importance of the forest ecosystem?
The forest ecosystem maintains the ecological balance by controlling the rainfall, climate, and weather pattern. Along with that, we get many resources like timber, medicines, rubber, and so on from the forests.

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