Saturday, May 11, 2013

Temperate Rain Forests


Three rain forests – Hoh, Queets and Quinault – are draped along the foothills of the western slopes of the Olympic Mountain Range along the Pacific Coast of the Olympic Peninsula.

Three temperate rain forests are within the boundaries of Olympic National Park. They are the Quinault Rainforest, the Queets Rainforest and the Hoh Rainforest. The Olympic National Forest. shares custodial duties with the park over some areas of the rainforest, especially around Lake Quinault. View map of Olympic Peninsula.

How To Make a Temperate Rainforest: Take a mild coastal climate, which rarely freezes in winter or goes above 80 degrees in summer, add a good dose of rain say 12 feet or so a year, add some summer fog and you have the ingredients for a temperate rain forest.

The tree which is most closely associated with the temperate rain forest of North America is the Sitka spruce. It grows in a narrow band along the coast and up western-facing river valleys from southeastern Alaska to southern Oregon, where it blends into redwood forest. Indeed, some use the terms Sitka spruce forest and temperate rain forest interchangeably.

However, when most people speak of the temperate rain forest in North America, they are usually thinking of those found in the western-facing valleys of the Olympic Peninsula. 


A temperate rain forest is recognized by the following hallmarks when found in combination:
  1. The presence of Sitka spruce.
  2. Nurse logs--usually fallen Sitka spruce upon which seedlings of trees grow.
  3. Colonnades--which are the trees standing in a row as a result of their getting a start on nurse logs.
  4. Trees standing on stilts--a result of seedlings sprouting on stumps that later decay away leaving a tree standing on the roots.
  5. A profusion of mosses and lichens.
  6. Big leaf maples with clubmoss draperies. Big leaf maples are really not that common in the temperate rain forest as they tend to be restricted to coarse, well-drained soil.
People often wonder if the mosses and lichens hanging from the limbs of big leaf maples, vine maple and other trees harm these trees. The answer is no, except for an occasional breaking of limbs from tremendous weight. In fact, these trees often send special roots out from the branch crotches into the mats of mosses and lichens and tap nutrients found there.

A temperate rain forest is more than a collection of trees, mosses and other plants. Woven into the fabric is a population of animals, including the Roosevelt elk, after whom the park was almost named. Birds such as the varied thrush, western robin, winter wren, pileated woodpecker, gray jay, junco and raven add texture to the fabric of the temperate rain forest. Mammals such as black-tailed deer, cougar, black bear, river otter, Douglas squirrel, jumping mouse and shrew dwell there. So do insects, reptiles and amphibians. There are no rain forests in the eastern Olympics. Indicator tree species for the "dry" (100") side are western pine and madrone. Big leaf maples are replaced by vine maples.

How do temperate rain forests compare with tropical rain forests? Both are the result of a great deal of rain. In tropical rain forests, the rain tends to be more evenly distributed throughout the year, although there are still "dry" and "wet" seasons. In fact, there may be two of each during the year. Rain frequently falls as strong shower bursts. In temperate rain forests, there tends to be one long wet season and a fairly dry summer where fog provides the necessary moisture. 

A temperate rain forest is more than a collection of trees, mosses and other plants. Woven into the fabric is a population of animals, including the Roosevelt elk, after whom the park was almost named. Birds such as the varied thrush, western robin, winter wren, pileated woodpecker, gray jay, junco and raven add texture to the fabric of the temperate rain forest. Mammals such as black-tailed deer, cougar, black bear, river otter, Douglas squirrel, jumping mouse and shrew dwell there. So do insects, reptiles and amphibians. There are no rain forests in the eastern Olympics. Indicator tree species for the "dry" (100") side are western pine and madrone. Big leaf maples are replaced by vine maples.

How do temperate rain forests compare with tropical rain forests? Both are the result of a great deal of rain. In tropical rain forests, the rain tends to be more evenly distributed throughout the year, although there are still "dry" and "wet" seasons. In fact, there may be two of each during the year. Rain frequently falls as strong shower bursts. In temperate rain forests, there tends to be one long wet season and a fairly dry summer where fog provides the necessary moisture. 

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