Life in Eastern Forests
Adaptation to periods of freezing weather and scarcity of food is necessary for the survivalof plants and animals living in the forests of eastern North America. In the Coastal Plain southof Virginia these forests contain primarily pines; from Virginia northward, most of the treeslose their leaves in winter. Here are found oaks, elms, maples, and hickories. The ability to hibernate allows frogs, toads, snakes, and turtles to survive the winter. Mostkinds of birds, including warblers, thrushes, and hawks, migrate southward for the winter. Jays, woodpeckers, and chickadees are among those that do not migrate. Mammals keepwarm in various ways—by hibernating, becoming dormant, or growing heavy coats, forexample. Mammals include bats, opossums, foxes, deer, and many kinds of rodents.
Life in the Grassland
The area of grassland extends roughly from the southern areas of the Prairie Provinces of Canada almost to the Rio Grande in the west-central portion of the continent. The area ischaracterized by a small amount of rainfall, which results in a lack of trees and thepredominance of grass for vegetation: long grass in the prairie area, and short grass in thedrier steppe area.Insects, amphibians, and reptiles, having adapted to living in the grass, are often green orlight brown in color. Most of the grassland birds, such as prairie chickens, larks, and burrowingowls, nest on the ground or in burrows. Grassland mammals include prairie dogs, pronghorns,and coyotes.
Life in the Desert
Plants and animals of the desert areas of the Great Basin and northern Mexico mustendure water scarcity, temperature extremes, and drying winds. Some plants, such asmesquite, have deep roots that extend far underground for moisture; some, such assucculents, store water for future use. The seeds of annuals may lie dormant for many yearsand then germinate quickly after a rain. Many kinds of insects are present. Scorpions, lizards,snakes, fly-catchers, roadrunners, kangaroo mice, kit foxes, and peccaries are found here.Most desert animals eat insects and are adapted to conserve the water available to them.
Life in the Northern Coniferous Forests
The forest trees growing in the severe northern climates of central Canada and at highaltitudes in the Appalachian and Rocky mountains are primarily spruce and fir. Along thenorthern Pacific coast are coniferous rain forests containing chiefly Sitka spruce, coastredwood, western hemlock, and Douglas fir. Flies and mosquitoes are particularly abundantinsects. Because of the cold winters, few reptiles and amphibians live here. Although mostbirds migrate, some—such as ravens, jays, and grouse—remain for the winter. Fur-bearing andthick-coated mammals of these forests include moose, wolves, weasels, lynx, and bears.
Life in the Tundra
The frozen ground and extreme cold of the arctic tundra, located in the northernmostreaches of North America, prevent the survival of most plants other than certain mosses,herbs, grasses, and shrubs. Lichens are common. The same kinds of organisms are found highin the Rockies and northern Appalachians.Insects and waterfowl breed in the tundra during the summer. Living here through thewinter are the cold-adapted snowy owls, willow ptarmigans, lemmings, hares, caribou, muskoxen, and polar bears. Some of the animals have differently colored summer and winter coats,providing them with protective coloration.
The nations of North America are at varying levels of economic development. The UnitedStates and Canada are the most industrially and technologically advanced nations, with thehighest percentages of workers in nonagricultural pursuits—well over 90 per cent. Mexico hasa fairly diversified economy and a growing industrial sector. The development of manufacturing, however, has not been widespread and unemployment is a major problem inMexico.3