15 julio, 2024

Subdeciduous tropical forest: characteristics, flora, fauna

He tropical deciduous forest It is an arboreal plant formation where 50% or less of the individuals lose their leaves in the dry season. They are also called tropical deciduous forests or monsoon forests and occur in tropical climates with two seasons, one rainy and the other very markedly dry.

These tropical forests have a complex structure, and can have up to 4 strata or levels of vegetation, including a fairly developed understory. They occur in shallow to very deep soils, with good drainage and a supply of groundwater.

These underground water reserves contribute to a relevant percentage of trees in these dry to sub-humid forests or jungles being able to maintain their foliage. Unlike the deciduous or deciduous forests, where more than 75% of the individuals completely lose their foliage.

These tropical deciduous forests are found in the Americas from Mexico to northern Argentina and Paraguay. In Africa they extend discontinuously in the sub-Saharan region and in Asia they are located in India and a large part of Southeast Asia.

The subdeciduous tropical forests have a high biological diversity with trees over 30 m tall and large predators such as jaguars and tigers.


Features of the tropical deciduous forest

Subdeciduous tropical forests are transitional forests between deciduous and humid forests, differing from the former in the percentage of evergreen individuals. In deciduous forests, almost all of the trees lose their foliage in the dry season and in subdeciduous forests, at least 50% of the individuals remain evergreen.

Deciduous or deciduous plants and evergreen plants

Deciduousness (ability to shed all the foliage) is a strategy to face the lack of water. Plants transpire through the leaves and the loss of water vapor allows them to control the temperature, in addition to facilitating the absorption of water by the roots.

In the dry season, the plant must reduce water loss to prevent its cells from dehydrating. Therefore, one strategy is to lose the leaves and go into a dormant state until the onset of the rains.

However, this leads to the plant paralyzing its growth and requires a great effort in energy and matter to replace all its foliage. Thus, in areas where there is still water available in the dry season, some species develop strategies to take advantage of it and not lose their foliage.

One of the most common strategies is to develop deep roots in order to reach the water in the groundwater table. Under these conditions, subdeciduous tropical forests develop as a mixture of deciduous and evergreen species.


Tropical deciduous forests arise in tropical climates that generally have two distinct seasons. However, there can also be a succession of two dry and two rainy seasons, as in the jungles of Cameroon (Africa).

They are characterized by high solar radiation throughout the year, with seasonal rainfall of 1,000 to 2,000 mm per year. Average annual temperatures range between 25 and 27 ºC, with a well-defined dry season of up to 5 or 6 months a year.

soil and relief

These forests in most cases have deep and fertile soils, with a high content of organic matter. The latter above all due to the important annual contributions of litter, although they can occur in areas with shallower soils.

These forests develop from low areas, around 100 meters above sea level, up to 1,500 meters above sea level, both in plains and in mountainous areas.

plant structure

Subdeciduous tropical forests have a high biological diversity and a complex plant structure. The trees reach between 25 and 30 m in height, with outstanding individuals of up to 50 m and up to four strata can be present.

Climbing and epiphytic species thrive in them, although their upper canopy is less closed than in the tropical rain forest. This less closed canopy and the loss of foliage by a high percentage of species in the dry season allow more light to enter.

Geographical distribution

Tropical deciduous forests, tropical semi-deciduous forests or monsoon forests or jungles, are found throughout the tropical belt. In America they grow in Mexico and all of Central America, as well as in the north, northwest of South America, southeast of Brazil (Mato Grosso) and in the Gran Chaco (Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina).

In Africa, these forests are scattered in central and southeastern Africa, as well as in Madagascar. Being particularly abundant in Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique. Zambia and Angola.

While in Asia we find them from India and Sri Lanka to Thailand and a large part of Southeast Asia.



In tropical America these forests are home to tree species that reach great size and are of timber importance. For example, the American cedar (cedrela odorata, cedrela montana) and mahogany (swietenia spp.).

Other species are the linnet (cordia alliodora), saqui-saqui (Pachira quinata) as well as the ceiba (kapok pentandra) with its barrel-shaped stem to store water. Other common trees are the jabillo (hura spp.), rubber (Ficus spp.), the saman (samanea saman), and various species of tabebuia and of Handroanthus (bignoniaceae).

There are species with large individuals such as the mijao (Anacardium excelsium) reaching up to 50 m. Also trunks with peculiar colors, such as yellow in oil (Copaiba officinalis) and copper in the naked Indian or mulatto stick (simaruba bursera).

On the other hand, in the undergrowth there are a large number of giant herbs such as heliconias, araceae, as well as palms. In the same way, climbers and epiphytes live here, such as bromeliads, orchids, araceae and bignoniaceae.


In the subdeciduous tropical forests of the African continent they are leguminous characteristics, especially of the genus Acacia. Combretaceae also abound (Terminalia spp.), urticaceae (Shrew cecropioides), cannabaceae (trema orientalis), Rutaceae (Vepris spp.) and moraceae (Ficus spp.).

Orchids also abound in African subdeciduous tropical forests, for example in forests in Nigeria there are more than 50 species.


In India there are species of euphorbiaceae such as paludosa uapaca and combretaceous as Terminalia superba. Also sapotaceous (gambeya boukokoensis), Annonaceae (Cleistopholis glauca) and rhamnaceae (Maesopsis eminii).

Other species have valuable wood such as teak (tectona grandis) and Ceylon ebony (Diospyros ebenum). While in Southeast Asia dipterocaraceae are common (dipterocarpus spp.), Myrtaceae (Eugenia spp.) and rubiaceae (metadine, Rothmannia).


Tropical deciduous forests are home to a great diversity of fauna, including large predators such as tigers, numerous species of monkeys, and birds.


In these forests lives the jaguar or American tiger (panthera onca), as well as other species of cats such as the ocelot (leopardus pardalis). Monkeys are also common, such as the howler monkey (alouatta spp.), the spider monkey (Ateles spp.) and the capuchin monkey (subfamily Cebinae).

There is also the peccary or mountain pig (tayasuidos), the deer (Odocoileus virginianus), the armadillo (Dasypodidae) and the opossum or rabipelado (Didelphis marsupialis).

It is the habitat of birds such as the guacharaca (Ortalis ruficauda), the turpial (icterus icterus) and various species of hawks (Accipiter spp.). As well as constrictor snakes such as boas (Boa spp.) and poisonous like mapanares (Bothrops spp.).


In the tropical deciduous forests of Africa inhabit the leopard (Panthera pardus), the wild dog (lycaon pictus) and the chimpanzee (pan troglodytes and pan paniscus). There are also species of duikers (Cephalophus spp.) which are small bovines and African wild boars such as the red hog (Potamochoerus porcus).

These forests also serve as a refuge for elephants (loxodonta africana) and cape buffalo (syncerus caffer). While among the birds, the guinea fowl (family Numididae) stand out, endemic to Africa.


In Asia, the tropical semi-deciduous forests or sub-deciduous tropical forests are inhabited by the tiger (panthera tigris) and the Asian elephant (elephas maximus). As well as by various species of monkeys, such as the langur monkey (Semnopithecus entellus), considered sacred in India.

Subdeciduous tropical forest in Mexico

In Mexico there are various types of subdeciduous tropical forests that are called medium subdeciduous forest and low subdeciduous forest. These forests develop in warm sub-humid climates with summer rains.

There are also sub-evergreen forests (High and Medium) that correspond to transitional forms between the evergreen and sub-deciduous forests.


They are located between 50 and 1,229 meters above sea level, on the southern slope of the Pacific coast, Oxaca, and in the central depression of Chiapas. As well as in the center of Veracruz, on the Costa Maya and on the Yucatan peninsula.


Among the common trees of these forests are legumes such as the copomo (Hymenaea courbaril) and the apricot (Enterolobium cyclocarpum). As well as a great diversity of moraceae of the genus Ficus called amate and malváceas like the ceiba (kapok pentandra).

Similarly, the jabillo (Hura Polyandra), the ramon (brosimum alicastrum), the crawled (Astronium graveolens) and different species of bursera (mulatto stick). Among the epiphytes there are Araceae such as Anthurium tetragoniumorchids (Catasetum integerrimum) and bromeliads (tillandsia brachycaulos).


A large amount of fauna lives in these jungles, with species of cats such as the jaguar, the ocelot (leopardus pardalis) and jaguarundi (cougar yagouaroundi). Also small rodents of the genus Liomys, the tepezcuintle (Cuniculus paca), the gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) and the arboreal anteater (mexican tamandua).

Of the primates are the saraguato or howler monkey (Alouatta palliata) and the spider monkey (Ateles geoffrogyi). Among the birds, there are many species of parrots (macaws and parrots), ramfastids (toucans) and the pacific chachalaca (Ortalis poliocephala).


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