Temperate Forests

Students of GCSE Geography will look at some of the different climates and environments on Earth. One environment they will study is that of the temperate forests - coniferous, broadleaf and mixed.

Temperate climates are found in the milder places between the tropics and the polar regions. Without the extremes of temperature found in the tropics and at the poles, the temperate regions are considered moderate and their seasons show less extreme changes. The UK is in this temperate region and is heavily influenced by the maritime climate as the North Atlantic Current brings warmer waters up from the south.

Temperate forests have on average between 200mm and 350mm of rainfall per year, and mild and moderate temperatures. This steady rainfall and lack of extremes allows for shrubs, flowers and trees to grow at a steady rate and adapt to more generalised conditions.

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Temperate forests are divided into three types - coniferous forests, broadleaf forests and mixed forests. A specific type of broadleaf forest is the deciduous forest, a type that is found widely in the British Isles. Some temperate forests receive enough rainfall to be considered rain forests. Whilst these mostly occur in North America, the coastal regions of Africa and the mountainous regions of Asia, they also notably occur in New Zealand and the British Isles. In the British Isles these so called Celtic rainforests or Atlantic oakwood forests occur in isolated pockets around some notable lochs in Scotland, in the English Lake District, in Devon and Cornwall, on the valley sides of the River Dart and some riverine gorges on the slopes of Snowdonia. Some of these regions that are considered temperate rainforests receive in excess of 2,000mm of rainfall per annum.

These temperate areas are valuable ecosystems for a huge variety of species. They are simpler in terms of structure, having a canopy and under structure, but without the other layers that characterise tropical forests. Play this quiz and test your knowledge of coniferous, broadleaf and mixed temperate forests.

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  1. Plant or ecological succession is the process from exposed ground through to a final established forest. In terms of succession what stage follows a mature forest?
    A climax community is the peak that an ecosystem can reach. Often they can't reach that point as fires and other destructive forces will knock back the succession to the start
  2. In terms of forest management, what is coppicing?
    Coppicing is a traditional technique that has been undertaken in British forests for thousands of years
  3. Which of the following is not a way that coniferous trees are adapted to the conditions of winters?
    Coniferous trees have small, thin needles and are green even in winter so can photosynthesise all year round
  4. Why are coniferous forests described as being evergreen?
    Because conifers stay green all year round they can photosynthesise even during the winter. Because of this they symbolise rebirth and life in the middle of winter, leading to their use as the Christmas tree
  5. Mediterranean forests include a special type of vegetative ecosystem known as Mediterranean scrublands. Whilst these are normally not large enough to be considered true forests they do include small oaks and pines. What is one of the main threats facing Mediterranean scrubland?
    Sheep and goats will graze on any and all vegetation, reducing areas to desert rather rapidly
  6. Broadleaf trees have large leaves that have adapted to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight possible. This large size means that they are vulnerable to winter winds and freezing conditions. Some broadleaf trees lose their leaves in the winter. What is this type of forest known as?
    Deciduous trees take back the nutrients from their leaves each autumn, turning them brown. The leaves are then lost to form a deep leaf litter on the forest floor
  7. What is a pioneer species?
    Pioneer species allow the chain of succesion to begin. Dependant on the situation, various species may become pioneer species
  8. Why are mosses predominantly found on the forest floor and tree branches of temperate forests?
    It's often said that mosses will grow on the north side of trees. This is because, in the Northern Hemisphere at least, conditions are cooler and damper on the north side of trees
  9. What type of tree dominates in coniferous forests?
    Coniferous forests often grow in areas where the conditions and climate are too extreme for broadleaf
  10. If a forest contains spruces, hemlock, pines and fir trees what type of forest is it?
    Even though they look similar, coniferous forests have a variety of trees. This sort of biome is also known as a taiga

Author: Ruth M

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