The Coniferous Forest Biome

A synonym for the Taiga, Boreal, Temperate and Sub-tropical Forests, and an outcropping in countless semi-arid/temperate grasslands, the coniferous forest is what most people think of when they say "the woods" or the word "squirrel." But, as you'll find out, there is much, much more to this endangered biome and its vital contributions to our everyday life.

Importance of the Coniferous Forest

external image 512px-Major_habitat_type_CAN_USA.svg.pngAs the world’s largest biome, covering 15% of this earth, the coniferous forest is one of the most important biomes worldwide as well as locally. Right here in Colorado we see countless miles of land blanketed by loge poles, firs, pines, and spruces- the primary producers of all energy in the forest. These softwood trees made up approximately 384,835,000 cubic meters of U.S. logging production in only 2009, a market larger than any worldwide, accounting for a whole quarter of our production and consumption as a nation. This softwood is being used more and more in everyday structural design. And of course, it is commonly known that trees and plants everywhere utilize carbon dioxide, a major pollutant, for photosynthesis. So the world’s largest biome must be a huge contributing factor in maintaining a hold on greenhouse gasses. Right?

But wood is not the only coniferous contribution to our economy, ecosystem, and everyday existence. Water is a large part of this biome. In the montane and subalpine zones of this biome, precipitation and snow are gathered and runoff will be transferred by the many streams and creeks to our vital fresh water sources- rivers. The water you see coming out of the tap is birthed in the coniferous forest. The Colorado river in particular, whose main resource is the mountains you see here at home, services 7 states directly around us and uncountable animal species that make up this biome.

In addition to all of this, the coniferous forest is perhaps one of the most prominent recreational landscapes. Skiing, biking, hiking, fishing, hunting, and tourism are a great market and enjoyment for people around the world. More than 15 out of our 58 beautiful national parks have a subarctic/coniferous forest region included in them.

1.1 - Hot Pink- Tropical Moist Broadleaf Forests 1.2 - Purple- Tropical Dry Broadleaf Forests 2.1 - Lime Green- Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests 2.2 - Dark Green- Temperate Coniferous Forests 3.1 - Tan- Temperate Grasslands, Savannas, and Shrublands 3.2- Yellow- Flooded Grasslands 4.1 - Red- Mediterranean Forests, Woodlands, Savanna, and Scrub 4.2- Light Pink- Deserts and Xeric Shrublands 6.1- Navy- Taiga and Boreal Forests 6.2- Light Blue- Tundra

The Coniferous Forest makes 3,500 kilocalories of plant tissue per square meter per year!

Food Web: A Coniferous Network of Energy


Biotic Factors of the Forest:

Humans: Every year, humans cut down so many trees that it makes ALMOST makes as much of an impact as the pine beetle does. They chew trees, we cut trees.
Inhabitants: Grubs(bugs), birds, and other animals use the pine tree as a shelter and home. These animals can be pushed out from their home by humans and pine beetles.
Predators: Moosen, Elki, Insecti, Birden, and Rodenti all eat the Pine tree.

Abiotic Factors:

Climate: Changes in climate make the trees grow differently. this can affect the way the trees defend themselves as well. When they don’t defend themselves, they get attacked by the beetle.
Rainfall: Helps the trees to grow strong enough to not be too harmed by the pine beetle. but this also makes us humans want them more for building.
Soils: Provide nutrients to the tree for growth and to help the tree protect itself.

In the words of John Muir, “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness”

The Colorado Mountain Pine Beetle: Threat to the Enviornment

When the mountain pine beetle digs it's way through trees, it then cuts off the nutrients and water that keep the tree alive.
The pine beetle takes away vital amounts of trees thatren't nessisary for the ecosystem to survive.
When this happens the trees die and become dry husks that when lit can cause large forest fires.
This can cause large damage to the ecosystem and the things that surrounds them.

Our Conservation Plan

Woodpeckers are generally the natural controllers of the beetle population, an insect that keeps the number of crowding elderly trees to a minimum so new ones can make way for biodiversity. But even a whole flock of birds could not keep up with the rapid and dense multiplication of these beetles that can become an environmental epidemic when conditions allow.

As this tiny beetle becomes the vision of a forest-less future, we realize we must take action. Living in a majorly affected continent, there are a few steps we can take to at least slow down the infestation of our beautiful forests. This conservation targets both prevention and adaptation to areas that have been previously affected.

Here are some steps our local organizations and forest service division (the GJ sector of the CSFS) can implement:

1) Require all landowners in target areas to install a Verbone pheromone product in all necessary places around their private land to confuse the pheromone signals beetles send out, hindering insect communication.
2) The beetles are weakest in the state when the weather has cooled and the larvae are just finishing creating a metabolic alcohol to maintain their temperature for the coming winter. This means that every winter:
  • The cooling of affected trees to under 30 degrees below for sustained periods can result in extensive death
  • The peeling away of bark will expose beetles and result in death
  • The “solar fixation” or heating of trunks to over 110 degrees Fahrenheit can result in death
  • The thinning of trees and plants yearly will help create biodiversity and strengthen immunity
  • The controlled burning of areas and affected logs will make way for new life but must be highly controlled in private and residential areas.
  • The very fine chopping/chipping of affected wood can be turned into woodchips that could be used in gardens around Colorado

If lumber can be treated like this each fall in the most highly affected areas, the spread of the beetle epidemic can be slowed dramatically.

Once timber has been treated it can be turned into wood for construction and be put on the market, turned into furniture and other softwood objects. There is a growing market for softwood, and making bluestain more highly available can reduce hardwood deforestation, be cheaper, more readily available due to reduced growth period, and can reduce ;the illegal logging and loss of hardwood forests in British Columbia and on the Coast (CA and such places)

The Simple implementation of just one of these steps can result in a much safer tomorrow.