Coniferous forests are a group of trees that mainly bear cones or coniferous trees. They include hemlocks, pines, firs and spruces among others. Their leaves are needle like, scale like and small in others. Most of them remain evergreen throughout the year. Therefore, they can survive acidic soils and cold temperatures.
Coniferous forests are mainly found within the Arctic Circle or the northern hemisphere. However, there are those found in the southern hemisphere. Northern coniferous trees are popularly known as boreal or tiga forests. They occupy vast area of the region from the Pacific to the Atlantic. They range across the Scandinavia, Europe, Russia and Asia through Mongolia and Siberia to Northern Japan and Northern China.
When do coniferous forests thrive?
Coniferous trees thrive during short summers as well as during long and harsh winters characterized with heavy snowfall lasting for a period of six months. The needle like trees have unique waxy outer coat and it plays a great role in preventing loss of water in freezing environment. Their branches are also flexible and soft pointing downwards thus, preventing snow from sliding over them.
Larches for instance are a good example of coniferous trees. They are deciduous and shed leaves during winter. Other trees including cedars, redwoods and cypresses are mainly found in warmer areas.
Life on forest floor
Evergreen trees at some point in their lives will shed leaves and grow new ones. When the needle falls to the ground, they form a springy and thick mat. The fallen needles will be broken down and decomposed by fungi. The fungi also offer nutrients to the trees from the decomposing components. However for pine trees, the needles do not decompose easily. Therefore, the soils in their roots are acidic and poor.
The forests also thrive in different types of soils and climatic conditions. They grow well in tropic soils and in the subarctic regions. Additionally, they can grow in heavy clays and poor sands as long as they are conditioned to winter climate. The taigas grow in high latitude of any forest and the most common types include pine, firs and spruce.
Growth of coniferous forest
Coniferous trees including redwoods and cedars grow upright in their ideal habitat. The tallest of the trees can reach about 20min in height. The trees are pyramid shaped and with short lateral branches that grow close together. They are very flexible and this helps snow to slide off easily. The leaves are also evergreen, hard and small in size.
It is also worth noting that little light usually penetrates thick canopy trees to reach the floor of the forest. As a result, only a few herbaceous plants and ferns can grow in the areas. Lichens, liverworts and Mosses are found in the floor of the forest and often grow on branches and trunks. Additionally, there are few flowering plants in the region.
Therefore, herbivores can live for long in coniferous forests because they can survive on acidic plants. The forest is a home to a wide range of insects that build their nests in dense trees. Elk and deer are commonly found in the forests because they feed or browse on berries that grow on low laying shrubs. Large predators including wolves and bears can be found in the forests because they can easily hunt for prey such as large herbivores.
Coniferous forests out of many forest types are known and thought to have been least affected by deforestation and human activities. This is believed to be so because the trees that grow in the forest are softwood trees. Therefore, they can only be used in paper production. The demand for paper is however increasing across different parts meaning, a large number of coniferous trees are being cut down.
Last but not least, the trees are the longest and toughest trees living in the world. They easily and relatively grow close together producing a safe environment for their survival. Their growth also creates a highly sheltered and dense forest. Therefore, plants and animals that live in the forest are fully and well adapted to harsh and bitterly cold seasons.
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