Temperate Coniferous Forest Ecoregions

Olympic National Park - View of temperate rainforest Washington, United States of America.  / ©: WWF-Canon / Fritz POLKING
Olympic National Park - View of temperate rainforest Washington, United States of America.
© WWF-Canon / Fritz POLKING
Temperate evergreen forests are found predominantly in areas with warm summers and cool winters, and vary enormously in their kinds of plant life. In some, needleleaf trees dominate, while others are home primarily to broadleaf evergreen trees or a mix of both tree types.
Temperate evergreen forests are common in the coastal areas of regions that have mild winters and heavy rainfall, or inland in drier climates or montane areas. Many species of trees inhabit these forests including pine, cedar, fir, and redwood.

The understory also contains a wide variety of herbaceous and shrub species. Temperate conifer forests sustain the highest levels of biomass in any terrestrial ecosystem and are notable for trees of massive proportions in temperate rainforest regions.

Structurally, these forests are rather simple, consisting of 2 layers generally: an overstory and understory. However, some forests may support a layer of shrubs. Pine forests support an herbaceous groundlayer that may be dominated by grasses and forbs that lend themselves to ecologically important wildfires. In contrast, the moist conditions found in temperate rain forests favor the dominance by ferns and some forbs.

Temperate rain forests only occur in 7 regions around the world - the Pacific Northwest, the Validivian forests of southwestern South America, the rain forests of New Zealand and Tasmania, the Northeastern Atlantic (small, isolated pockets in Ireland, Scotland, and Iceland), southwestern Japan, and those of the eastern Black Sea1).

Forest communities dominated by huge trees (e.g., giant sequoia, Sequoiadendron gigantea; redwood, Sequoia sempervirens; mountain ash, Eucalyptus regnans), an unusual ecological phenomena, occur in western North America, southwestern South America, as well as in the Australasian region in such areas as southeastern Australia and northern New Zealand.

The Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion of western North America harbors diverse and unusual assemblages and displays notable endemism for a number of plant and animal taxa.

Biodiversity Patterns
Most tree species and larger vertebrates have relatively widespread distributions; considerable local endemism and beta diversity occurs in some ecoregions in invertebrates, understory plants, and lichens, particularly in rain forests or on unusual soils; may have extremely diverse invertebrate faunas or herbaceous floras; altitudinal specialization occurs but is less pronounced than in the tropics.

Minimum Requirements
Disturbance regimes such as fire, windthrow, and epizootics can vary considerably within this major habitat type, but the extremes are typically of sufficient size and frequency as to make small patches of natural forest have only limited conservation value; many species highly specialized on late-successional forests; larger carnivores very wide-ranging with large home ranges; some species track resources that vary widely in space in time (e.g., epizootic outbreaks, fire events, cone production) requiring large natural landscapes.

Sensitivity to Disturbance
Larger carnivores highly sensitive to human activities including low intensity hunting; large number of species highly sensitive to logging and fragmentation of natural forests, particularly late-successional species; late-successional species and features typically regenerate slowly; many temperate forests require periodic fires to maintain successional processes and many species; exotic species can have extensive and significant impacts on natural forest communities.

In this habitat are the following ecoregions:

Nearctic
(72) Pacific Temperate Rainforests
(73) Klamath-Siskiyou Coniferous Forests
(74) Sierra Nevada Coniferous Forests
(75) Southeastern Coniferous and Broadleaf Forests

Neotropical
(76) Valdivian Temperate Rainforests / Juan Fernandez Islands

Palearctic
(77) European-Mediterranean Montane Mixed Forests
(78) Caucasus-Anatolian-Hyrcanian Temperate Forests
(79) Altai-Sayan Montane Forests
(80) Hengduan Shan Coniferous Forests



1) Kellogg et al. 1992, WWF/IUCN 1994

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