THE WORLD OF FORESTS

The earth still has regions of distinct forest types though some of them are under severe threat from mans activity.
- Boreal Forests
- Temperate coniferous
- Temperate Broadleaves
- Tropical Rainforests

Boreal Forest

Most prevalent in cold Northern latitudes. (50-60 degrees). They stretch across northern EUROPE, RUSSIA and NORTH AMERICA. Tree species have a shortish growing season from 1-3 months. The coniferous species allow water to be retained in harsh climatic conditions down to minus 30 degrees. Diversity is limited. Spruces, Pines and firs predominate though in some places you get birch. The greatest continuous forest area on earth is the TAIGA, the SIBERIAN conifer forest of about a 1000 million hecteres. At the northern margin of the Boreal forest trees become smaller and smaller giving way to TUNDRA. In the south species diversity increases and trees can reach 40 m in height.

Temperate and Oceanic coniferous forests

Coniferous forests can thrive at lower latitudes where the geographic conditions and climate suit, at higher altitudes or in wet cool conditions such as the AMERICAN WEST COAST. Here you can find such species as larch, hemlocks, and cedars as well as the boreal species. As conifer and deciduous areas can be close there tends to be a lot more diversity. Regions would include the mountainous areas of Europe and Asia, North America and Japan as well as the pine forests of southeast United States. Man made forests have also been developed in these regions under favorable climatic conditions through reforestation after felling and afforestation of degraded agricultural land. Examples of long managed forest areas are the BLACK FOREST of Germany and the LANDES in France.

Temperate Broadleaved Forests

These occur between 40 and 60 degrees north in coastal areas and in central EUROPE, CHINA, the Eastern side of the US and CANADA and also in NEW ZEALAND and TASMANIA with vestiges in South America (CHILE). Days are relatively long and climate moist. All the common broadleaved species are present, oak, beech, ash and sycamore in Europe with many other additions in Asia. Walnut, Maple and hickory are found in North America with such evergreen broadleaves as Eucalyptus, Podocarps and southern beech in the southern hemisphere. This forest type is rich in tree species, other plants and animals. Large areas have given way to farming and urbanization and commercial timber activity is common. Recently these forests have become the focus for conservation.

Tropical Rain Forest

Tropical Forests cover 5-6% of the earths surface. There are three main regions, CENTRAL and SOUTH AMERICA, WEST and CENTRAL AFRICA and SOUTHEAST ASIA. These forests are under GREAT threat in all regions. The AMAZON forest alone e comprises 6 million square kilometers. The African rain forest centers on the CONGO RIVER. Mangrove forests are a coastal type in swamps and lagoons. They are also under threat from urbanization. The rain forests have some of the richest and diverse sites on earth with an enormous range of tree species especially the Amazon that can have 300 different tree species in a hectare. They grow valuable timber like teak and mahogany and also produce nuts, fruits, rubber and medicines. Three quarters of all the anti cancer characteristics originate in rain forests. Only tiny fractions of species have been researched. Rain forests are wet places with over 3000mm and with high temperatures 20-35 degrees where trees grow to great heights and have huge stabilizing buttresses. They can comprise several layers with most activity taking place in the canopy with flowers and fruits where many creatures live. Giant creepers use the trees for support and orchids grow on the branches. Most of the organic matter is in trees and plants. Soils are poor and unable to support successor crops after burning. It has been estimated that an area the almost the size of Ireland is lost or degraded each year and this is continuing. Southeast Asian forests are being most badly affected. All of this releases 1 billion tonnes of carbon each year. Although the RIO CONFERENCE ON SUSTAIANABILITY 1992 created a new awareness, progress in containing the destruction is very slow.

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