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The temperate rainforests are described as broadleaf or coniferous forests that get high rainfall and are in temperate zones. They are not the same as tropical rainforests, mainly because temperate rainforests experience all four seasons. Learning all about the temperate rainforest is necessary to understand what they are, where they are, and how they thrive.
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World Distribution of the Temperate Rainforest
The biggest stretch of this habitat is located from southern Alaska through northern California along North America's northwestern coast. Some small areas are found in New Zealand, southern Chile, and Australia. There are a few other places, such as northwest Europe, a part of South Africa, southwest Japan, eastern Black Sea region, Azerbaijan and Iran's Caspian forest, eastern Taiwan Pacific Coast, British Columbia Rocky mountains, Russian Far East, parts of Asia, northwestern Montana and northern Idaho, North Korea and China Changbai Mountains, and the Appalachian Mountains from New England to Georgia; these areas are small.
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Temperate Rainforest Climate
This type of rainforest, like all rainforests, has large amounts of precipitation. Approximately 200 centimeters to 350 centimeters fall each year. Warmer climates experience more rain. Since this type of rainforest is temperate, and experiences all four seasons, snow is also a form of precipitation that is more common in higher elevations. The annual temperatures range from zero degrees Celsius to about 20 degrees Celsius.
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Temperate Rainforest Plants
The most common trees include the sitka spruce, western hemlock, bigleaf maple, red alder, Douglas fir, western red cedar, vine maple, black cottonwood.
The bigleaf maple can grow as high as 36 meters. The leaves can grow as large as 30 centimeters across. The top part is dark green and the bottom half is paler, turning yellow in the fall. This tree is often found in moist soil near water and is often grouped with red alder, Douglas fir, western hemlock, black cottonwood, and western red cedar trees.
The common shrubs include the huckleberry and the salmonberry.
Salmonberry is a fruit, shaped like a raspberry. They come in a variety of colors ranging from deep orange to pale yellow. This fruit shrub is distributed along the Pacific Northwest. Salmonberries are edible and often enjoyed by hikers.
The common epiphytes include the licorice fern, cat-tail moss, Oregon selaginella, and the lungwort.
The lungwort is a perennial that can reach 30 centimeters in height. The leaves are green and it has flowers that are pink-purple in color. This plant is native to western Asia and Europe.
The common understory plants include the Oregon oxalis, lady fern, sword fern, and stair-step moss.
The Oregon oxalis is a perennial that grows low to the ground, often carpeting temperate rainforests. Its leaves resemble a shamrock and the flowers, which grow from April through September, have five petals, are small, are white to pink color, and tend to have reddish veins.
All of these plants are found in all of the temperate rainforests throughout the world.
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Temperate Rainforest Animals
The tertiary consumers include large hunters, such as the lynx, bear, wolf, and cougar. The secondary consists of animals that hunt, but are less aggressive, such as the shrew, weasel, insects, amphibians, raccoon, and birds. The primary consumers are the least aggressive and include squirrels, salmon, deer, small birds, and elk.
Cougars, also referred to as mountain lions, is a predator that is considered America's second heaviest cat. They tend to avoid people and are rather reclusive. It often eat larger animals such as elk, deer, and moose.
Weasels are not very large with the larger weasels being about 18 inches long. They eat smaller animals, such as rabbits and birds.
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Temperate Rainforest Facts and Statistics
North America's Pacific Coast is home to the world's largest temperate rainforests. These forests used to be found on every continent, but now only encompass 75 million acres. The world's rainforests are being destroyed by unsustainable ranching, logging, agricultural, and mining practices.
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Marietta College. (2010). The Temperate Rainforest. Retrieved on June 9, 2010 from Marietta College: http://www.marietta.edu/~biol/biomes/temprain.htm
The Nature Conservancy. (2010). Facts About Rainforests. Retrieved on June 9, 2010 from The Nature Conservancy: http://www.nature.org/rainforests/explore/facts.html
Rainforest Facts. (2010). Temperate Rainforest Plants. Retrieved on June 16, 2010 from Rainforest Facts: http://www.rainforest-facts.com/temperate-rainforest-plants.html
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Temperate Rainforest: John Haynes – Wikimedia Commons