* Temperature varies from -30° C to
* Precipitation (75-150 cm) is
distributed evenly throughout the year.
* Soil is fertile, enriched with
* Canopy is moderately dense and
allows light to penetrate, resulting in well-developed and
richly diversified understory vegetation and stratification of
* Flora is characterized by 3-4
tree species per square kilometer. Trees are distinguished by
broad leaves that are lost annually and include such species as
oak, hickory, beech, hemlock, maple, basswood, cottonwood, elm,
willow, and spring-flowering herbs.
* Fauna is represented by
squirrels, rabbits, skunks, birds, deer, mountain lion, bobcat,
timber wolf, fox, and black bear.
When these trees are full grown, they
are between 130 to 280 feet tall.
In some areas other conifers dominate. For
example, in California redwood trees grow in the temperate rain
forest. Small shade-loving trees, such as dogwoods and vine maples,
form the understory level. Beneath the trees, shrubs such as wild
currants, thimbleberries, and huckleberries grow in the filtered
sunlight. Sword ferns, salal, and Oregan grape plants also thrive
here. At the ground level, the earth is littered with dead fir
needles, leaves, twigs, and fallen trees. These lie on and under a
thick carpet of mosses, lichens, grasses, and small plants, such as
Oregon oxalis (which has leaves like a shamrock). The rocks are
green with moss, and the tree trunks and branches are covered with
moss and algae. These low-growing plants are shade tolerant.
Here and there one may find toadstools,
mushrooms, and other kinds of fungi: these saprophites (organisms
that digest dead organic matter) help to recycle the dead material
on the forest floor. This forest has nutrient-rich soil because
there is a lot of dead organic matter on the ground. This dead
material is being slowly digested by the fungi, insects, and
bacteria that live here. In the tropical forests the trees have to
spend some of their energy drawing up water and getting rid of heat:
in this milder climate the trees can grow and grow. Scientists say
that there is more biomass in this biome than in any other biome on
earth. There may be 500 tons of living things per acre here! That
translates down to about 206 pounds per square yard, about the same
as one good sized human adult per square yard! Most of the animals
in this forest live on or near the ground, where there is lots of
food, and the trees provide shelter from sun, wind, and rain.
Beetles burrow in the moss and hide in the bark of trees. Wood
peckers and birds eat the insects. Grass is eaten by the voles (cute
little mouse-like animals) and the deer. There is food that is
easier to eat than the tough needles of the conifers. However, the
conifers do provide food when they make their nourishing seeds.
Birds and small animals eat these seeds.
A Food Chain in the Temperate Rain
This biome has seasonal
variations. Although temperatures remain mild, animals and plants
respond to the seasons in their growth and reproductive patterns.
Spring brings new life as animals are born and eggs hatch. Summer is
a season of growth. Fall brings maturation and preparation for
winter. Winter is a season of rest and endurance. The Primary
Producers of this forest are the plants that use their chlorophyll
to create food for their own growth as well for the animals. The
Ground Layer of this forest is covered with green mosses and small
plants. Mushrooms, grasses, and wild flowers grow among the mosses,
covering the ground with a thick, moist, green carpet. Dead leaves,
logs, needles, and twigs, provide food for the detritivores, who
digest the dead materials and make them available for
In this forest the soil is
rich in nutrients. The Understory Layer is made up of shrubs and
small trees. Many of the shrubs are deciduous and shed their leaves
in the fall. Many of them, such as huckleberries and blackberries,
also have small, sweet fruits and berries. The canopy layer of this
forest is made up of magnificient coniferous trees. They produce
edible seeds and provide a thick "roof" over the smaller trees.
Their branches and trunks support blankets of moss. The vegetation
is so thick that sometimes when snow falls it is caught by leaves
and twigs so that it does not fall down to the ground.
The Primary Consumers are
mostly small animals. The forest provides food, shelter in the moss,
mild temperatures and humidity, which encourages the growth of many
kinds of insects. It is a paradise for mosquitoes! As well as
insects, there are small mammals: voles (tiny mammals like mice),
chipmunks, squirrels, and seed eating birds. These eat seeds,
grasses, and even mushrooms. Larger animals, such as deer and elk,
also find food in this biome. An interesting primary consumer is the
salmon. These fishes hatch from eggs in the cold mountain streams
and eat tiny water organisms and insects that fall into the water.
The young fish swim down the river to the ocean, where they grow to
maturity. When they are fully grown, the large fishes return from
the ocean and swim upstream to lay their eggs. Then the parents die,
and their bodies provide food for all the meat eaters in the
Secondary Consumers are
also at home on the forest floor. Tiny shrews devour the insects,
and frogs catch insects as they fly by. There are many insect-eating
birds as well, some of which, like the woodpecker, are adapted to
finding insects in the trees. Weasels eat small animals, and racoons
eat animals, fishes, frogs, and fruit. Owls eat voles and chipmunks.
Insects live as parasites on other animals.
Large secondary consumers,
such as wolves, bears, and cougars, are the only ones who can bring
down deer or elk. However, once they have made a kill, smaller
carnivores may move in to get a share. The larger carnivores may
also eat smaller ones sometimes.
There are other animals in
this food web, such as foxes, beavers, black birds, and porcupines.
Because the plants do so well, animals flourish too.
Temperate Forests in Crisis: Tree
Plantations & Eco-Forestry
For millennia, temperate
forests have suffered the onslaught of logging, burning and clearing
for wood products, pasture lands and cities. Almost all of the
native hardwood forests of Europe, the eastern U.S. and central and
eastern Canada have disappeared. Finland and Sweden have only tiny
patches of oldgrowth forest left. Less than one percent of British
Columbia's magnificent coastal old growth Douglas fir forests
remain. Most of the native forests in south central Chile are gone.
The replacement of forests by farms and cities is an obvious form of
deforestation. More insidious, but every bit as ecologically
destructive, are the current forest practices that replace native
forests with plantations(monocultures of single tree species planted
by humans) and commercial tree farms (managed "forests" that are
thinned, tended with biocides and clearcut on short rotations to
achieve optimum fibre yields for industry). Plantations now cover
over 13 million ha in northern Europe, 11 million ha in North
America, 17 million ha in Russia and Eastern Europe, and 1.7 million
ha in Chile.
Tree farms and forest
plantations are ecological abominations. They are wrested from
native forests through clearcutting - the complete removal of all
trees and associated vegetation over a large area of land.
Clearcutting and its associated logging roads cause soil crosion,
water degradation, and loss of biodiversity. In Sweden, for example,
where oldgrowth forests have largely been replaced by plantations of
Canadian lodgepole pine, the loss of biodiversity has reached
disastrous levels. Over 40 vertebrate and 50 plant species are
seriously endangered, and another 220 species are threatened with
In British Columbia (B.C.),
Canada, where clearcutting and conversion of ancient forests to
managed tree farms occur in more than 90 percent of the harvested
forests, 24 species dependent upon oldgrowth forests are now at risk
of extinction. In 1992, a government audit of randomly-selected
logging sites on Vancouver Island showed that almost two-thirds of
streams were negatively affected by logging and one-third suffered
complete salmon habitat loss.
In Chile, where native
forests are being clearcut, burned, highgraded and converted to
exotic tree plantations on a massive scale, 6 plant species are
almost extinct, 11 tree species are now endangered and a further 26
tree species are classified as vulnerable. Many wildlife species are
also at risk of extinction as a direct result of the destruction of
their forest habitats, including the Huemul, Pudú, Guiña cat,
Chilote fox, Comadrejita Trompuda, Black Woodpecker, and Darwin
similarities between forest practices in Chile and B.C. are strong.
Chile and British Columbia are both at a crossroads. They still
harbour a variety of oldgrowth temperate forests, including Earth's
largest remaining tracts of extremely rare, biomass-rich, ancient
temperate rainforest. But both governments currently allow forestry
practices that are destroying, at a rapid rate, the last of these
unprotected ancient forest ecosystems. In order to prevent the loss
of biodiversity and achieve truly sustainable forestry, major
changes in forest practices must occur. Hope lies in adopting
ecologically sustainable forest practices that many people are
calling "eco-forestry". Eco-forestry is a low-impact method of
forestry based on selection harvest of trees at a slow enough rate
to allow native forests to sustain themselves through natural
regrowth. Eco-forestry does not highgrade or degrade the forest. It
retains wildlife trees along with the diverse ages and species of
trees found in native forests. Eco-forestry is based on the
understanding that nature knows best how to manage forests, and
humans must take the "interest" not destroy the "capital" of the
natural forest ecosystem. To complement the ecologically managed
forests, areas of unaltered native forests must also be preserved,
so that we can better learn how native forests function. Only
through increased preservation and a switch to eco-forestry
practices that sustain the structure, functions and biodiversity of
native forests, can we hope to save Earth's native temperate