Forest soils form where it is not too hot, and not too cold. The type of soil that forms depends on what type of vegetation grows. Soils that formed under deciduous forests are very fertile and productive agricultural lands because of the decomposing leaves at the soil surface. However, soils formed under pine trees are usually more acidic and sandy, and are less suited to growing crops. Forests are very important, as they store a great deal of carbon in the leaves, trees, and soil, which is why it is important to protect the forests.

This lesson is appropriate for grades 4+.

Forest Soils

Lesson Objectives:


1)  Show on a map where temperate forests are found in North America and/or the world.

2)  Discuss what a soil in a coniferous forest may look like.

3) Discuss what a soil in a deciduous forest may look like.


Glossary of Terms:


In current glossary:

  • E Horizon (eluviated)

  • Subsoils

  • Fungus

  • Leaching


‚ÄčOther glossary words:

  • Spodosols – acidic, sandy forest soils under conifers

  • Alfisols – moderately leached soils often found in temperate forests

  • Respiration – animals breathing in and out getting air to their cells.

  • Carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas that protects the earth, but can cause problems if found in too large of a quantitiy.


Activities or information:


1) Forest Soil/Climate maps

  • Global Soils Map (All grades) Link to a large number of soil maps.  You will need some knowledge of soils and what you are looking for in order to make best   use of the site.
  • World Climate Map (All grades) A good resource for climate map.


2 ) Forest soils


3) Photos


Study Questions:


1) What is the difference between soils in a coniferous forest and those in a deciduous forest?

2) If trees have more roots in them, why aren't soils dark in color like prairie soils?

3) What is leaching?