"Woodland" is often just another name for a forest. Most of the time, though, geographers use the term to describe a forest with an open canopy. The canopy is the highest layer of foliage in a forest. It is made up of the crowns, or tops, of trees. An open canopy allows full sunlight to enter the woodland, limiting shade and moisture.

Woodlands are often transition zones between different ecosystems, such as grasslands, true forests, and deserts.

Woodlands that lead to grasslands are sparse. Grasslands, sometimes called prairies or savannas, are composed mostly of grasses and have few trees. The woodlands of Ethiopia border grasslands in the highlands of the Horn of Africa. Ethiopian woodlands are densely populated and contain some of the best agricultural land in the country. Organisms that live in the Ethiopian woodlands must be able to thrive in both the partly shady woodland and the open grassland. The critically endangered Walia ibex, a type of small mountain goat, is such an animal.

Woodlands can also transition to true forests, which are larger and have denser foliage and closed canopies. Eucalyptus forests, composed of the most common type of tree in Australia, are often surrounded by eucalyptus woodlands. The trees themselves are often the same, but woodland eucalyptus trees have fewer branches and are shorter than forest varieties.

Woodlands that border desert ecosystems are sometimes called xeric woodlands. (Xeric means dry.) The succulent woodlands on the island of Madagascar, located off the southeast coast of Africa, are xeric woodlands. Succulent woodlands are full of cactus-like plants that are adapted to hot, dry climates.

woodland
Trees dominate woodland ecosystems.

Ancient Woodlands
Ancient woodlands are the British version of North Americas old-growth forests. Ancient woodlands are stands of trees that have existed in a natural state since before 1600. The largest ancient woodland in the United Kingdom is Glen Finglas, Scotland. Glen Finglas is 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres).

Noun

the art and science of cultivating land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).

cactus
Noun

type of plant native to dry regions.

canopy
Noun

one of the top layers of a forest, formed by the thick leaves of very tall trees.

Noun

all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

densely
Adverb

heavily or crowded.

Noun

area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.

Noun

community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

foliage
Noun

leaves of a plant, or the leaves and branches of a tree or shrub.

forest
Noun

ecosystem filled with trees and underbrush.

geographer
Noun

person who studies places and the relationships between people and their environments.

grass
Noun

type of plant with narrow leaves.

grassland
Noun

ecosystem with large, flat areas of grasses.

Horn of Africa
Noun

large peninsula in northeast Africa, including the countries of Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. Also called the Somali Peninsula.

ibex
Noun

type of wild, horned mountain goat.

Noun

large grassland; usually associated with the Mississippi River Valley in the United States.

savanna
Noun

type of tropical grassland with scattered trees.

sparse
Adjective

scattered and few in number.

succulent
Noun

type of plant that has thick leaves and stems for storing water.

thrive
Verb

to develop and be successful.

transition zone
Noun

area between two natural or artificial regions.

tree crown
Noun

top branches of a tree.

Noun

land covered with trees, usually less dense than a forest.

xeric
Adjective

dry.

xeric woodland
Noun

land covered with trees near a desert.