We are fast losing earth’s greatest natural treasures when we are just starting to appreciate their unique value. Rainforests once attributed to 14% of the entire earth’s cover. Today, the figure has dropped to a measly 6%, and biologists have warned that the remaining rainforests could be decimated in the next 40 years. Rainforest deforestation is contributing mightily to the loss of rainforests. If this practice goes on unabated, almost half of the animal and plant species in the world would be threatened or destroyed. That said, it is essential to be in the known about rainforests in order to initiate informed actions to preserve them. Rainforest biomes are divided into two; Tropical rainforest biomes and temperate rainforest biomes. We are going to look at temperate rainforest biomes particularly.
A Temperate rainforest biome is a type of rainforest biome occurring in a temperate climate. To put it clearly, temperate rainforests experience vast amounts of rainfall, but feature a cooler average temperature compared to tropical rainforests.
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Temperate rainforests are characterized by mild climates or temperatures. Essentially, these areas do not experience extremely cold or extremely hot temperatures. Temperate rainforests have two different seasons. One season (winter) is quite long and wet, and the other (summer) is short, dry and foggy. Throughout the long wet season, the temperature hardly falls below freezing point, which is 0°C and 32°F. Throughout the short, dry and foggy season, the temperature hardly exceeds 27°C or 80°F. This pretty much explains why this biome is referred to as temperate rainforest.
Also in summer, when it’s relatively dry, the weather is considerably cool as the fog supplies sufficient moisture to enable the rainforest to thrive. Ideally, the fog contributes 18-30 cm (7-12 in) of precipitation every summer. These biomes are so mild due to their closeness to the ocean on one side and mountain ranges on the other. During winter months, the ocean water emits heat, leaving the coastal areas warmer and absorbs heat during summer months, leaving the coastal areas cooler.
Considering the word ‘’rain” is found in the word ‘’rainforest,” it tells you right off that this biome receives plenty of rainfall. The average annual precipitation of a temperate rainforest biome is 200cm. In much warmer areas, the average precipitation goes up to about 350 cm annually.
Temperate rainforests are located along some coasts in temperate zones. The biggest temperate rainforests are located on the Pacific coast of North America. They extend from Oregon to Alaska for about 1,200 miles. Smaller temperate rainforests also exist. They can be located on the southeast coast of Chile, South America. A few other coastal strips exist that have temperate rainforests such as small parts in the U.K., New Zealand, Japan, South Australia and Norway.
Temperate rainforests experience an extended growing season. As opposed to tropical rainforests, temperate rainforests experience major seasonal changes. Animals living in the temperate rainforest must develop adaptation to the ever-changing seasons. Animals that are not able to adapt migrate in the winter. Leaves of temperate rainforest trees change color and drop in the autumn. They then regrow in spring. The broad, flats leaves of temperate rainforests trees lose water fast. Winter months normally leave the ground frozen, making it hard for them to absorb water. The result is a massive drop off of leaves. The trees in this biome stay dormant and blossom again during spring.
As opposed to tropical rainforests, temperate rainforests consist of only 2 layers of vegetation; the emergent layer and the canopy layer. The understory layer and the forest floor consist of less vegetation. The tallest trees in rainforests have their leaves typically approximately 15 to 30 centimeters from the ground, including a dense layer of small trees and shrubs beneath, at about 5 to 10 meters. This is the real reason the soil in temperate rainforests receives a lot more light than their tropical counterparts. The undergrowth in temperate rainforests is lush, consisting mainly of mosses, lichens, and ferns.
In the course of growth during spring, when the tree leaves have not wholly formed, there is a lot of light penetrating to the forest floor. This aspect allows plant species to thrive on the ground, which explains why plant species that exist on the ground surface grow, flower and produce fruits before late summer. Later on, sciophilus plants (plants species that love shade) begin to grow. These plant species have developed immaculate mechanisms to harness and utilize low-light intensity, which gives them the ability to get by even when the vegetation or greenery grows and entirely covers the soil below.
The main kinds of trees found in the temperate rainforest biome include oaks, beeches, walnut trees, lime trees, sycamores, aspens, elms, tulip trees, and birches. Below is a highlight of some of the tree species:
Oaks are tree species that are able to grow up to 40 m tall. They have impressive lifespan (500 to 100 years). Oak trees are predominant in tropical mountain regions (Himalaya, Mexico and Indonesia), temperate climates (Europe, North America, and Asia) and in Mediterranean climates (California and Mediterranean areas. Oak trees are highly valued by humans since they are used to make furniture, timber, stairs, railway sleepers, casks, and parks.
These tree species can grow up to 40 meters tall and consist of huge, dome-shaped foliage. They bear fruits, which are commonly known as beech nuts. Beech nuts mimic chestnut husks. They also have thorns. However, the thorns are much softer and rounded, which means they can’t prick. Beeches do well in wet conditions, with clayer and airy soils, but far from harsh winter frost. These tree species are prevalent in Western and Central Europe, where they are mostly harvested to make timber.
These are large tree species that grow up to 20 meters tall. They bear stone fruits, which are naturally fleshy. Walnut trees are found almost everywhere. Their timber is harnessed to make furniture. They thrive in temperate climates with the United States being the largest producer.
Lime trees are characteristically long-trunked and elegant and can grow up to 30 meters tall. They come in different types, with the Tilia platyphyilos being the most common. Lime trees also grow wild and can be found along river banks, in bushes, rocks, coppices and sunny slopes in areas of central Europe. They are commonly used to beautify gardens and parks and to shade city trees.
These tree species are generally medium-sized and can grow up to 25 meters tall. They experience fast growth. They thrive in warm and sunny regions. Aspens are sprinkled all over central Europe. However, they are relatively few in Western Europe. They’ve proved, over the years, to be resilient (not affected by industrial waste), which is why they commonly grow in towns and cities.
Birches originate in Southeast Asia and Europe and thrive in sandy and peaty soils. They like areas with plenty of sunshine and mostly grow in small groups in mountainous and hilly regions together with broad-leafed and coniferous trees. The decorative color of their leaves and bark along with their beautiful deportment is the reason why they are used as ornamental trees.
Elms originate in Southwest Asia, Europe, and North Africa. They are classified as Ulmaceae plants and can grow up to 30 meters tall. Their greenery is hemispherical shaped, with thin and pale brown branches. Their flowers are attractively small and red in color.
Compared to tropical rainforest biomes, temperate rainforest biomes harbor very few mammals due to the absence of a series of sophisticated layers and the fact that the vegetation is seasonal. In summer months, the animal species of this ecosystem feed particularly on winged seeds and wall nuts that keep for a long duration. Fruits produced by the rose tree, apple tree, gooseberry, Hawthorne, and others almost always ripen at the same time (during late summer) and are chiefly used in the course of summer for fat storage.
There is a huge diversity of life in temperate rainforest biomes. Frogs, turtles, insects, birds, spiders and salamanders are just some of the animal varieties found here. Bird species like cardinals, broad-winged hawks, pleated woodpeckers and snowy owls exist in this biome. Some of the mammals present in this biome include raccoons, porcupines, red foxes, white-tailed deer, and opossums.