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Learn to recycle, reduce, reuse and revere with Environmental Resources from Gale

Building a Temperate Forest Biome


Biomes are strongly influenced by the climate and soil type in a particular region. These same factors determine the success of a mini-biome model. In this project, you will attempt to build, grow, and maintain a temperate forest biome. This particular biome is characterized by a temperature range of 32 to 68°F (0 to 20°C). It has an annual precipitation of 20 to 95 inches (50 to 240 centimeters) and a fairly deep soil layer. The purpose of this project is to try to maintain the correct climate, soil, and vegetation in the temperate forest biome.

Level of Difficulty

Moderate. (This project requires continuous tending and attention to maintain a proper climate.)

Materials Needed

  • l0-gallon fish tank (plastic, if possible, for safety)
  • indoor/outdoor thermometer
  • watering container
  • gravel
  • sand
  • topsoil
  • incandescent light fixture with a 40-watt bulb (optional)
  • plants and/or seeds (choose oak, maple, sassafras, hickory, tulip trees, sweet gum, dogwood)

Note: Choose all deciduous trees. Seeds may be hard to grow unless they have been chilled. If you use trees, they should be very small saplings.

Approximate Budget

$25. (Try to use an old fish tank if possible.)


One hour to set up the project and at least six months to maintain the trees and observe changes.

How to Work Safely

Ask for assistance when carrying and lifting the fish tank. Do not leave the light fixture on for more than 10 hours at a time.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Place a 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) layer of gravel on the bottom of the fish tank.
  2. Place a 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) layer of sand over the gravel.
  3. Mix 2 parts of topsoil to 1 part of sand. Place a 2- to 3-inch (5- to 7.5-centimeter) layer of the sand/topsoil mixture over the sand layer.
  4. Plant 4 to 6 trees. Be sure to cover all the roots. If seeds are being used, place them 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) down in the soil and allow 1 month for them to sprout.
  5. Place the thermometer inside the terrarium against the back wall.
  6. Water gently until approximately 0.25 inch (0.6 centimeter) of water has accumulated in the gravel layer.
  7. Place the fish tank outside or in a sunny place indoors. You must maintain the temperature of the fish tank in the range of 32 to 60°F (0 to 15°C). If you need to provide artificial light, place the incandescent fixture above the fish tank and provide 5 to 10 hours of light per day.
  8. Check the project daily, and maintain 0.25 inch (0.6 centimeter) of water in the gravel.
  9. Record the growth of the plants and the temperature range.

Summary of Results

Graph the data you have collected over the six-month period. The overall growth of the plants will demonstrate the health of the biome environment.

Source: Experiment Central. U·X·L, 2000.


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