• woodland
    Trees dominate woodland ecosystems.

    Photograph by Chris Johns

    Ancient Woodlands
    Ancient woodlands are the British version of North Americas old-growth forests. Ancient woodlands are stands of trees that have existed in a natural state since before 1600. The largest ancient woodland in the United Kingdom is Glen Finglas, Scotland. Glen Finglas is 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres).

    "Woodland" is often just another name for a forest. Most of the time, though, geographers use the term to describe a forest with an open canopy. The canopy is the highest layer of foliage in a forest. It is made up of the crowns, or tops, of trees. An open canopy allows full sunlight to enter the woodland, limiting shade and moisture.

    Woodlands are often transition zones between different ecosystems, such as grasslands, true forests, and deserts.

    Woodlands that lead to grasslands are sparse. Grasslands, sometimes called prairies or savannas, are composed mostly of grasses and have few trees. The woodlands of Ethiopia border grasslands in the highlands of the Horn of Africa. Ethiopian woodlands are densely populated and contain some of the best agricultural land in the country. Organisms that live in the Ethiopian woodlands must be able to thrive in both the partly shady woodland and the open grassland. The critically endangered Walia ibex, a type of small mountain goat, is such an animal.

    Woodlands can also transition to true forests, which are larger and have denser foliage and closed canopies. Eucalyptus forests, composed of the most common type of tree in Australia, are often surrounded by eucalyptus woodlands. The trees themselves are often the same, but woodland eucalyptus trees have fewer branches and are shorter than forest varieties.

    Woodlands that border desert ecosystems are sometimes called xeric woodlands. (Xeric means dry.) The succulent woodlands on the island of Madagascar, located off the southeast coast of Africa, are xeric woodlands. Succulent woodlands are full of cactus-like plants that are adapted to hot, dry climates.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    agriculture Noun

    the art and science of cultivating the land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).

    Encyclopedic Entry: agriculture
    cactus Noun

    type of plant native to dry regions.

    canopy noun, verb

    the top layer of a forest formed by the thick leaves of very tall trees.

    climate Noun

    all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

    Encyclopedic Entry: climate
    densely Adverb

    heavily or crowded.

    desert Noun

    area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.

    Encyclopedic Entry: desert
    ecosystem Noun

    community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ecosystem
    foliage Noun

    leaves of a plant, or the leaves and branches of a tree or shrub.

    forest Noun

    ecosystem filled with trees and underbrush.

    geographer Noun

    person who studies places and the relationships between people and their environments.

    grass Noun

    type of plant with narrow leaves.

    grassland Noun

    ecosystem with large, flat areas of grasses.

    Horn of Africa Noun

    large peninsula in northeast Africa, including the countries of Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. Also called the Somali Peninsula.

    ibex Noun

    type of wild, horned mountain goat.

    prairie Noun

    large grassland; usually associated with the Mississippi River Valley in the United States.

    Encyclopedic Entry: prairie
    savanna Noun

    type of tropical grassland with scattered trees.

    sparse Adjective

    scattered and few in number.

    succulent Noun

    type of plant that has thick leaves and stems for storing water.

    thrive Verb

    to develop and be successful.

    transition zone Noun

    area between two natural or artificial regions.

    tree crown Noun

    top branches of a tree.

    woodland Noun

    land covered with trees, usually less dense than a forest.

    Encyclopedic Entry: woodland
    xeric Adjective

    dry.

    xeric woodland Noun

    land covered with trees near a desert.

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