22.10 Temperate Rainforest - Biology

22.10 Temperate Rainforest - Biology

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Learning Objective

  • Recognize distinguishing characteristics of temperate rainforests & plant adaptations of the biome.

Temperate rainforests, sometimes called mixed evergreen forests, are common on the western coast of the United States, from Alaska to California. However, smaller patches of this biome can be found on other contents as well. The conditions of this biome are similar to temperate deciduous forests but winters are colder and last longer. The soil in this biome is generally poor in nutrient levels. Being close to the coast, the temperature rarely goes below freezing, averaging between 39°F and 54°F. Precipitation averages about 55 inches but can reach up to 100 inches a year.


The term mixed evergreen forest comes from the fact that both deciduous and evergreen (coniferous) trees are common in this biome. These evergreen trees are often tall and conspicuous. The tallest trees in the world, the coast redwoods, can be found in this biome. Often, moss and epiphytes can be found growing on the tall trees as they reach out for the sun (Figure (PageIndex{1})) . In the understory, ferns are common, as well as other shade tolerant plants. Showy wildflowers and fungi can also be seen in the understory.

10 Temperate and Boreal Rainforest Regions of the World

In 2011, Geos Institute and partners completed an updated global synthesis of temperate and boreal rainforests of the world, using advanced computer mapping and local partnerships with 32 scientists to identify just ten regions of the world that qualified as temperate and boreal rainforest:

  1. Pacific Coast of North America (redwoods to Alaska containing the greatest extent of these rainforests globally)
  2. Inland northwest British Columbia and portions of Idaho and Montana
  3. Eastern Canada (portions of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, eastern Quebec)
  4. Europe (Norway is boreal British Isles, Ireland, Swiss Alps, and Bohemia are temperate)
  5. Western Eurasian Caucasus (Georgia, Turkey, Iran)
  6. Russian Far East and Inland Southern Siberia (transitional between boreal and temperate)
  7. Japan and Korea
  8. Australasia (Australian mainland, Tasmania, New Zealand)
  9. South Africa (Knysna-Tsitsikamma)
  10. Chile & Argentina (Valdivia temperate rainforests)

Collectively, these rainforests regions make up about 250 million acres of the Earth’s total forest cover (or 2.5 percent). About 35 percent are found along the Pacific Coast from the redwoods to Alaska, including British Columbia. About 10 percent of this (26 million acres) is in the Pacific Northwest (USA) and coastal Alaska with the remainder (25 percent) in British Columbia. In particular, Alaska’s coastal rainforest (mostly notably along the Tongass National Forest) are of global importance, containing about one-third of the world’s old-growth (or primary, unlogged) rainforests.

Globally, temperate and boreal rainforests provide habitat for scores of rare and unique species such as monkey-puzzle trees of Chile that have ancient affinities dating back to a time when the continents were joined as Gondwanaland even before dinosaurs roamed the Earth. In the Pacific Northwest, they include massive redwoods and some of the tallest firs and spruces in the world such as those on the Olympic National Forest in Washington. And they support complex food webs consisting of grizzly bears and wolves feeding on salmon in Canada’s Great Bear rainforests and rainforest lichens eaten by mountain caribou in the inland rainforests of British Columbia, Montana, and Idaho. Around the world, temperate and boreal rainforests are home to tigers, bears, six-foot long salamanders, primates, unique plants, and ancient trees .

Unravelling the effects of temperature, latitude and local environment on the reproduction of forest herbs

Aim To investigate the effect of temperature, latitude and local environment on the reproductive traits of widespread perennial forest herbs to better understand the potential impacts of rising temperatures on their population dynamics and colonization capacities.

Location Six regions along a latitudinal gradient from France to Sweden.

Methods Within each region, we collected data from three to five populations of up to six species. For each species, several variables were recorded in each region (temperature, latitude) and population (local abiotic and biotic environmental variables), and seed production and germination were estimated. Resource investment in reproduction (RIR) was quantified as seed number × seed mass, while germinable seed output (GSO) was expressed as seed number × germination percentage. We performed linear regression and mixed effect models to investigate the effects of temperature (growing degree hours), latitude and local abiotic and biotic environment on RIR and GSO.

Results Temperature and latitude explained most of the variation in RIR and GSO for early flowering species with a northerly distribution range edge (Anemone nemorosa, Paris quadrifolia and Oxalis acetosella). Reproduction of the more southerly distributed species (Brachypodium sylvaticum, Circaea lutetiana and Primula elatior), in contrast, was independent of temperature/latitude. In the late summer species, B. sylvaticum and C. lutetiana, variation in RIR and GSO was best explained by local environmental variables, while none of the investigated variables appeared to be related to reproduction in P. elatior.

Main conclusions We showed that reproduction of only two early flowering, northerly distributed species was related to temperature. This suggests that the potential reproductive response of forest herbs to climate warming partly depends on their phenology and distribution, but also that the response is to some extent species dependent. These findings should be taken into account when predictions about future shifts in distribution range are made.

Appendix S1 Site descriptions of the six regions.

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Parks and protected areas are unique public resources that serve a multitude of societal needs. Historically, parks and protected areas were created primarily to conserve valued species and landscapes, and conservation continues to be a core mission of many parks around the world (Watson, Dudley, Segan, & Hockings, 2014 ). Parks also serve as reservoirs of ecosystem services (Palomo, Martín-López, Potschin, Haines-Young, & Montes, 2013 Postel & Thompson Jr., 2005 Soares-Filho et al., 2010 ), as test sites for developing climate change mitigation and adaptation plans (Gonzalez, Neilson, Lenihan, & Drapek, 2010 Rehfeldt, Ferguson, & Crookston, 2009 Westerling, Turner, Smithwick, Romme, & Ryan, 2011 ), as sources of aesthetic and artistic inspiration (e.g., Nancarrow, 2006 Vaughn & Lovett, 2019 ), and as vital connection points between people and nature (Floyd, 2001 Leaman, 2013 ). For these reasons, among many others, parks have been valuable sites for both basic and applied scholarly research, ranging from long-term studies of environmental change (e.g., Roland, Stehn, Schmidt, & Houseman, 2016 ) to archeological and paleontological discoveries (e.g., Thomas et al., 2020 ) to advances in economic valuation of non-market goods (e.g., Haefele, Loomis, & Bilmes, 2016 ).

Research in national parks has a long history. In the 1890s, for example, Henry Cowles conducted the first field studies of plant succession—one of the central concepts in ecology—at what is now Indiana Dunes National Park (Cowles, 1899 ). Experiments conducted by Dan Simberloff at Everglades National Park in the 1960s tested MacArthur and Wilson's island biogeography models and remain widely influential in ecology and conservation biology (Simberloff, 1969 Simberloff & Wilson, 1969 ). In the 1970s, Rowland Tabor and Wallace Cady showed the relationship between topography, rock distribution, and subduction zones in Olympic Mountains National Park at a time when the idea of plate tectonics was relatively new (Tabor & Cady, 1978 ). Monica Turner's research on wildfire in Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s was among the first to examine ecosystems over large extents and is seminal to the field of landscape ecology (Turner, Hargrove, Gardner, & Romme, 1994 ). Also at Yellowstone in the 1990s, Robert Smith and Lawrence Braile proposed that the Snake River Plain is part of a continuum related to the North American plate moving over a fixed mantle hotspot, and that volcanism at Yellowstone is related to the passage of the continent over a conduit of ascending magma (Smith & Braile, 1994 ). This hypothesis has many derivative consequences for the topography, geologic hazards, mineral resource distribution, and even the flora and fauna of the Yellowstone region. In the 2000s, community science BioBlitz events in national parks, wherein families, students, and the public join National Park Service (NPS) staff to conduct intensive field studies, have informed and inspired engagement, outreach, and inventory methods worldwide (Francis, Easterday, Scheckeland, & Beissinger, 2017 ).

Despite these important discoveries and scientific advances, there has not been a systematic review of research conducted in national parks. Independent reviews of research in national parks have been published periodically since the 1960s but have often focused on single issues of concern, such as wildlife management (e.g., Leopold, 1963 Mech & Barber, 2002 ). Much that has been written about NPS research has been limited in scope to compilations and case studies, as exemplified by the title of the 1989 review, National Parks: from vignettes to a global view (Bishop et al., 1989 ). NPS has a broad mission of conserving national parks for future generations and has traditionally valued national park research in several broad categories: inventories of resources for protection, management, and monitoring studies that can guide understanding of natural dynamics and processes from individuals to ecosystems assessments of threats and evaluations of management responses (NRC, 1992 ). More recent efforts have broadened this scope to consider the relationships between people and parks, the use of community science for research, and the special needs and potential of “blue” (ocean) parks (Beissinger & Ackerly, 2017 ). Historic support for and interest in scientific research within NPS has ranged from encouraging to hostile (reviewed in Parsons, 2004 ). The establishment of Research Learning Centers starting in 2001 publicly signaled that the agency welcomed park-based research by non-NPS scholars, recognized that NPS relies on science to inform management and outreach activities, and stated a new vision of “parks for science and science for parks” (NPS, 2016 ). Presidential administrations and Congressional mandates may affect access to parks and support for research, yet U.S. national parks contain unparalleled natural, cultural, and historic resources and therefore remain extraordinary places to conduct research.

Over a century ago, Grinnell and Storer ( 1916 ) warned that the national parks would “probably be the only areas remaining unspoiled for scientific study”. As land use intensifies and climate change continues, U.S. national parks may be more important than ever for both basic and applied research. However, a nationwide synthesis of trends in national park research, and potential biases in that research, has never existed, despite the need for such a synthesis to assess needs and guide future decisions. In this study, we asked three questions to understand recent research trends in U.S. national parks, using nearly 7,000 peer-reviewed research articles published since 1970: (a) When and where has scholarly research taken place in national parks? (b) Which academic disciplines and sub-fields are most and least represented? and (c) Who is funding the research? This first nationwide synthesis of scholarly trends and biases in U.S. national park research can inform the scope and direction of the second century of park science and management.

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Global distribution

Temperate forests cover a large part of the Earth, but temperate rainforests only occur in a few regions around the world. Most of these occur in oceanic moist climates: the Pacific temperate rain forests in Western North America (Southeastern Alaska to Central California), the Valdivian and Magellanic temperate rainforests of southwestern South America (Southern Chile and adjacent Argentina), pockets of rain forest in Northwestern Europe (southern Norway to northern Iberia), temperate rainforests of southeastern Australia (Tasmania and Victoria) and the New Zealand temperate rainforests (South Island's west coast).

Others occur in subtropical moist climates: South Africa's Knysna-Amatole coastal forests, the Colchian rainforests of the eastern Black Sea region (Turkey and Georgia), the Caspian temperate rainforests of Iran and Azerbaijan, the mountain temperate rainforests along eastern Taiwan's Pacific coast, the eastern coast of the Korean Peninsula along the length of the Baekdu Mountain Range and in the area surrounding Mt. Jiri and across the peninsula's southern coastline, southwest Japan's Taiheiyo forests, coastal New South Wales and New Zealand's North Island.

Some areas, however, such as the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia (BC), northern Idaho and northwestern Montana, the Rocky Mountain Trench in BC and Montana, and the Russian Far East (Ussuri, Outer Manchuria, Sakhalin) in Asia have more continental climates but get enough precipitation in both rain and snow to harbor significant pockets of temperate rainforest.

Scattered small pockets of temperate rainforest also exist along the Appalachian Mountains from northern Georgia to New England. The mountainous coniferous forests of the Changbai Mountains bordering China and North Korea are also a good example, containing some of the richest high-elevation coniferous evergreen forests in East Asia.

Temperate and Boreal Rainforests Book

Edited by Geos Institute Chief Scientist, Dominick A. DellaSala, Ph.D.

News about the book’s 2012 national award, naming it “best of the best” for academic excellence.

Temperate and boreal rainforests are biogeographically unique. Compared to their tropical counterparts, they are rarer and at least as endangered. Because most temperate and boreal rainforests are marked by the intersection of marine, terrestrial, and freshwater systems, their rich ecotones are among the most productive regions on Earth. Many of them store more carbon per hectare than even tropical rainforests, contain some of the oldest and largest trees on the planet, and provide habitat for scores of rare and unique species including some with affinities dating back to the supercontinent Gondwanaland and when dinosaurs were king.

Zombie ants, updated

Back in 2010, I wrote about the strange tale of the zombie ants, which do the bidding of their fungal overlords. (They’re not an isolated example a range of parasites change their hosts’ behaviour. See here and here for example – though as you’ll find, the toxoplasmosis story may be even more complex than first thought.)

There’s been quite a lot more work done on this relationship since that tale was published. For example, it seems that the fungus may be achieving its ends by manipulating gene expression in its hosts.

And it also appears that past changes in climate may have driven evolutionary changes in how the fungus makes its hosts act: specifically, whether they do their death-bite on a twig, or the midrib of a leaf. NB this manipulation of host behaviour, in a way that’s ‘visible’ to natural selection, could be seen as part of the extended phenotype of the parasitic fungus (Loreto, Araujo, Kepler et al., 2018).

Loreto & his colleagues had previously found that the behaviour of carpenter ants parasitised by fungi in the genus Ophiocordyceps differed depending on the environment. In the tropics, the great majority of ants bit onto leaves, while in temperate forests they bit onto (& wrapped their legs around) twigs. One obvious difference between tropical and temperate forests is that the former are evergreen, while in temperate regions trees shed their leaves in autumn. In that light, the researchers hypothesised that a fungus whose zombie ants bite onto twigs prior to death will have an extended window for raining spores down onto other ants on the ground – this could have a positive effect on the evolutionary fitness of that particular fungal strain.

In order to test their hypothesis, the team took a three-pronged approach. They:

  • looked at global distribution of the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis species complex, to see if there were indeed geographic differences in ants’ biting choices
  • studied the development of one species from that complex in a temperate forest, to determine if twig-biting did give an adaptive advantage over leaf-biting in that environment
  • and tested the idea that manipulating ants to chose a different substrate was convergent across fungi in different temperate regions. They did this by “inferred the phylogenetic relationships and conducted ancestral state reconstruction (ASR) between different species of fungi within the O. unilateralis complex that manipulate the host to bite leaves and those that manipulate their hosts to bite twigs, in both Old and New World temperate and tropical forests”.

They found that the Ophiocordyceps species complex has quite a broad latitudinal range, from 47 o North (deciduous forests in Canada) to 27 o South (tropical forests in Brazil). Leaf-biting predominated in the tropics, while in things were more variable in the temperate forests of the US, Canada, & Japan. However, the US and Japanese observations of leaf-biting came from evergreen forests. This allowed the team to conclude that the type of biting substrate (twigs vs leaves) is correlated to latitude.

When they looked at fungal development in ants parasitised in a deciduous temperate forest, Loreto et al. discovered that the fungal stalk & sporangium (the bit sticking out from the ant’s head in the photo at the top of this page) didn’t happen until the year after the ants died. They also found that the majoring of ants had not only bitten onto a twig, but had also wrapped their legs around the twig prior to death, a behaviour that would maximise the odds of the ant remaining suspended into the following year.

Finally, the team’s phylogenetic analysis found that the Ophiocordyceps complex is a monophyletic group, with two major subclades (or branches). One subclade was of species from Asia & Oceania, while the other comprised American species (with the exception of one species from Japan). As a result of their analysis, the researchers concluded that leaf-biting is the ancestral trait in Ophiocordycep‘s extended phenotype, and that the shift to making ants bite onto stems happened 4 times in the fungal group’s evolutionary history:

based on past climate and forest type distribution, fossil evidence of leaf biting and our ancestral state character reconstruction, there are grounds to suggest that the species in the O. unilateralis clade originally manipulated ants to bite leaves and subsequently experienced independent convergent evolution to twig biting by different fungal parasites in response to global climate change and the emergence of the deciduous forests in different areas of the globe. The emergence of the additional twig grasping presumably came later as it may increase the likelihood that the host cadaver, which the fungus requires for reproduction, stays in position over extended periods of time.

What were the likely global climate change events that might have driven this convergent evolution? It’s quite possible that the changes during the Eocene, which saw the development of drier, cooler deciduous forests around 49 million years ago, had something to do with it.

And how does it all happen? That’s a question for future research.

Although it remains to be discovered how a microbe inside the body of its host can affect such precise choices in its manipulated host, our data suggest that the infected manipulated ants have a behavior, the extended phenotype, which is encoded by the fungus and results in the optimal selection of the plant tissue (leaf versus twig) to bite before being killed by the parasite.

The post zombie ants, updated appeared first on BioBlog. Featured image: Ophiocordyceps unilateralis and Camponotus leonardi, Wikimedia Commons.

Ecology of Coarse Woody Debris in Temperate Ecosystems

Coarse woody debris (CWD) is an important component of temperate stream and forest ecosystems. This chapter reviews the rates at which CWD is added and removed from ecosystems, the biomass found in streams and forests, and many functions that CWD serves. CWD is added to ecosystems by numerous mechanisms, including wind, fire, insect attack, pathogens, competition, and geomorphic processes. Despite the many long-term studies on tree mortality, there are few published rates of CWD input on mass-area -1 time -1 basis. CWD is significantly transformed physically and chemically. Movement of CWD, especially in streams, is also an important but poorly documented mechanism whereby CWD is lost from ecosystems. Many factors control the rate at which CWD decomposes, including temperature, moisture, internal gas composition of CWD, substrate quality, size of CWD, and types of organisms involved. However, the importance of many of these factors has yet to be established in field experiments. CWD performs many functions in ecosystems, serving as autotrophic and heterotrophic habitat and strongly influencing geomorphic processes, especially in streams. It is also a major component of nutrient cycles in many ecosystems and is an important functional component of stream and forest ecosystems.

Related Research Articles

Temperate coniferous forest is a terrestrial biome defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature. Temperate coniferous forests are found predominantly in areas with warm summers and cool winters, and vary 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. A separate habitat type, the tropical coniferous forests, occurs in more tropical climates.

Temperate broadleaf and mixed forest is a temperate climate terrestrial habitat type defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature, with broadleaf tree ecoregions, and with conifer and broadleaf tree mixed coniferous forest ecoregions.

The Valdivian temperate forests (NT0404) is an ecoregion on the west coast of southern South America, in Chile and extending into Argentina. It is part of the Neotropical realm. The forests are named after the city of Valdivia. The Valdivian temperate rainforests are characterized by their dense understories of bamboos, ferns, and for being mostly dominated by evergreen angiosperm trees with some deciduous specimens, though conifer trees are also common.

The Magellanic subpolar forests are a terrestrial ecoregion of southernmost South America, covering parts of southern Chile and Argentina, and are part of the Neotropical realm. It is a temperate broadleaf and mixed forests ecoregion, and contains the world's southernmost forests.

The Pacific temperate rainforests ecoregion of North America is the largest temperate rain forest ecoregion on the planet as defined by the World Wildlife Fund. The Pacific temperate rain forests lie along the western side of the Pacific Coast Ranges along the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America from the Prince William Sound in Alaska through the British Columbia Coast to Northern California, and are part of the Nearctic realm, as also defined by the World Wildlife Fund. The Pacific temperate rain forests are characterized by a high amount of rainfall, in some areas more than 300 cm (10 ft) per year and moderate temperatures in both the summer and winter months.

Laurel forest, also called laurisilva or laurissilva, is a type of subtropical forest found in areas with high humidity and relatively stable, mild temperatures. The forest is characterized by broadleaf tree species with evergreen, glossy and elongated leaves, known as "laurophyll" or "lauroid". Plants from the laurel family (Lauraceae) may or may not be present, depending on the location.

A temperate forest is a forest found between the tropical and boreal regions, located in the temperate zone. It is the second largest biome on the planet, covering 25% of the world's forest area, only behind the boreal forest, which covers about 33%. These forests cover both hemispheres at latitudes ranging from 25 to 50 degrees, wrapping the planet in a belt similar to that of the boreal forest. Due to its large size spanning several continents, there are several main types: deciduous, coniferous, mixed forest and rainforest.

The Northern California coastal forests are a temperate coniferous forests ecoregion of coastal Northern California and southwestern Oregon.

An evergreen forest is a forest made up of evergreen trees. They occur across a wide range of climatic zones, and include trees such as coniferous and holly in cold climates, eucalyptus, Live oak, acacias and banksia in more temperate zones, and rainforest trees in tropical zones.

The Scandinavian coastal conifer forests or Norwegian coastal conifer forest is a Palearctic ecoregion in the temperate coniferous forests biome, located along the coast of Norway. Within it are a number of small areas with botanical features and a local climate consistent with a temperate rainforest.

The term Malabar rainforests refers to one or more distinct ecoregions recognized by biogeographers:

  1. the Malabar Coast moist forests formerly occupied the coastal zone to the 250 metre elevation
  2. the South Western Ghats moist deciduous forests grow at intermediate elevations
  3. the South Western Ghats montane rain forests cover the areas above 1000 metres elevation

California mixed evergreen forest is an plant community found in the mountain ranges of California and southwestern Oregon.

The Northern Pacific coastal forests are temperate coniferous forest ecoregion of the Pacific coast of North America. It occupies a narrow coastal zone of Alaska, between the Pacific Ocean and the northernmost Pacific Coast Ranges, covering an area of 23,300 square miles, extending from the Alexander Archipelago in southeast Alaska along the Gulf of Alaska to the western Kenai Peninsula and eastern Kodiak Island. The Pacific Coastal Mountain icefields and tundra ecoregion lies inland, at higher elevations in the Coast Mountains. The ecoregion receives high rainfall, which varies considerably based on exposure and elevation. It contains a quarter of the world's remaining temperate rain forest.

The Taiwan subtropical evergreen forests is an ecoregion that covers most of the island of Taiwan, with the exception of the southern tip of the island, which constitutes the South Taiwan monsoon rain forests ecoregion. The island's concentrated steep mountains host a range of forest types, from subtropical forests in the lowlands to temperate and alpine or montane forests.

The New England-Acadian forests are a temperate broadleaf and mixed forest ecoregion in North America that includes a variety of habitats on the hills, mountains and plateaus of New England in the Northeastern United States and Quebec and the Maritime Provinces of Eastern Canada.

The Coast Range ecoregion is a Level III ecoregion designated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, and California. It stretches along the Pacific Coast from the tip of the Olympic Peninsula in the north to the San Francisco Bay in the south, including Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay, and the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington, the entire length of the Oregon Coast, and the Northern California Coast. Named for the Coast Range mountains, it encompasses the lower elevations of the Olympic Mountains, the Oregon Coast Range, the Californian North Coast Ranges, and surrounding lowlands.

The Klamath Mountains ecoregion of Oregon and California lies inland and north of the Coast Range ecoregion, extending from the Umpqua River in the north to the Sacramento Valley in the south. It encompasses the highly dissected ridges, foothills, and valleys of the Klamath and Siskiyou Mountains. It corresponds to the Level III ecoregion designated by the Environmental Protection Agency and to the Klamath-Siskiyou forests ecoregion designated by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

The Ecology of the North Cascades is heavily influenced by the high elevation and rain shadow effects of the mountain range. The North Cascades is a section of the Cascade Range from the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River in Washington, United States, to the confluence of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers in British Columbia, Canada, where the range is officially called the Cascade Mountains but is usually referred to as the Canadian Cascades. The North Cascades Ecoregion is a Level III ecoregion in the Commission for Environmental Cooperation's classification system.

The Central Pacific coastal forests is a temperate coniferous forest ecoregion located in the Canadian province of British Columbia and the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington, as defined by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) categorization system.

The North Central Rockies forests is a temperate coniferous forest ecoregion of Canada and the United States. This region overlaps in large part with the North American inland temperate rainforest and gets more rain on average than the South Central Rockies forests and is notable for containing the only inland populations of many species from the Pacific coast.

Watch the video: Temperate and Tropical Forest. Sanchez (December 2022).