A forest stream is its own unique habitat. It has some things in common with rivers, and it is an important part of a forest. Like rivers, forest streams can vary in width, depth, and current. Most are shaded, but some dry up during the summer. There are some species of animals that live only in forest streams, and no place else. Forest streams go by other names, such as creek, spring, or run.
Below are some characteristics of forest streams:
The size of a forest stream is usually small, compared to rivers, but some small rivers are actually forest streams. Forest streams tend to be shallow, rarely over a person's head, even in the deepest parts. Many people could easily jump over some forest streams, and most could cross one by stepping on rocks without even getting wet feet.
Like rivers, the current of a forest stream can be fast or slow. Because streams are smaller and more shallow than rivers, water always looks like it's "in a hurry." At the deeper parts, a forest stream usually has a slower current.
Most forest streams have gravelly or sandy bottoms, but a mud bottom is not unusual, especially in the slower part of a stream. In the fall, leaves from the forest's trees fall into the water, carpeting the bottom. It is up to the current to take many of the leaves downstream, or small animals to eat and break the leaves down.
Forest streams often have a lot of flattened rocks, especially where the current is fast. Lots of animals, such as crayfish and aquatic insects use these rocks as shelter.
Like rivers, streams can have gentle or steep banks. Undercut banks are common as well (read about rivers for more information).
Depending on the forest, some streams are shady nearly the whole day. In a more open forest, the stream may have parts that receive lots of light. The types of plants and animals that live in streams often depends on the amount of light as much as it does current, depth, or bottom.
These are some of the most important animals in a forest stream. Many of them can only survive in this type of habitat. These insects provide food for many animals, both as nymphs (young) in the water, and as adults flying through the forest. Insects also help tell us how healthy and clean a stream is based on their presence.
Nearly every forest animal comes to a stream for some reason or other. Large and small animals drink from the cool, clean waters. Others come to look for food, such as fish or insects, which live in the stream. Birds and other animals bathe in forest streams, where the water is shallow and less dangerous than larger bodies of water.