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Eastern Temperate Forests

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Map Legend & Subregion List

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NameColor on Map
Mixed Wood Plains
Central USA Plains
Southeastern USA Plains
Ozark, Oauchita-Appalachian Forests
Mississippi Alluvial & Southeast USA Coastal Plains

About the Eastern Temperate Forests

The Eastern Temperate Forests of North America cover most of the eastern United States, and are the most familiar ecoregion to most US residents, as the bulk of the country's population is located within this region.

The climate here ranges from humid subtropical in the south and coastal areas, to humid continental in the north, interior, and higher-elevation portions. Most of this region has four well-defined seasons, with hot summers and cold winters. The absence of large mountain ranges in most of the region (the Appalachians are not tall enough to block air masses to the degree that the mountains of the west coast do) allows air masses to move freely, and the chaotic dynamics of weather lead to the possibility of both long or short wet or dry spells, as well as long or short cold or hot spells, at virtually any time of year.

Total precipitation is high enough throughout the whole region to support forest growth. Most of the region has precipitation roughly equally distributed year-round, although the southwest has a bimodal precipitation pattern with wetter springs and summers and drier fall, the southeast and northwest both have wetter summers and drier winters, and a few localities have other seasonalities in precipitation.

The dominant wild ecosystems in this area are closed-canopy deciduous forests, although there are also many coniferous trees in the region as well, and some wetlands and other more open ecosystems. Evergreens become more common in regions with more acidic soils, including sandy soils and some of the colder, high-elevation regions with rocky soils.

Much of the forests in this region have been cleared for agriculture and development. Historically, nearly all the forests in this region were cleared after European settlement, but forests have regrown in many places, particularly in the north. Only a few isolated regions of old growth forest remain, mostly in more remote, inaccessible areas, such as swamps and areas with steep topography.

The Eastern Temperate Forests region was naturally mostly covered by lush, broadleaf deciduous forests. It is also the most populous and heavily-developed region. Ths photo illustrates a common sight throughout the region: lush hardwood trees against a backdrop of urban and suburban development. Photo © Alex Zorach, CC BY-SA 4.0