Coniferous forest generally flourishes in Taiga type of climate. This climate has severe winters and a brief period of summer lasting only for 3 to 4 months. Heavy snowfall occurs during winter and temperature falls to about -30 to -40 degrees.
The forests in the Taiga region are evergreen coniferous forests. The word ‘conifer’ is a Latin word meaning ‘cone-bearing’ The forests in Taiga region are named so because of the evergreen trees with needle shape or scale-like leaves.
Coniferous trees very tough and are one of the largest living species of trees in the world. Almost all of the conifers trees have seeds on the surface of their scales, this gives them cone-like appearance. The cones look like seed cones. The male and female reproductive structures are present in the cone.
Conifers Belong to Gymnosperm Class
Biologically or anatomically Coniferous trees belong to a class of trees known as Gymnosperms. Gymnosperm means ‘ naked seeds’. Gymnosperms are flowerless plants that produce seeds in the form of cones, instead of flowers. Pinophyta or Coniferophyta is the division of plant to which coniferous trees belong.
These trees are mainly found in subarctic regions in the northern and southern hemisphere. In the northern hemisphere, these forests form a continuous belt whereas I the southern hemisphere these forests are present in Canada, Scandinavian Europe, central and Southern Russia ( Siberia) around 50 degrees N to 70 degrees N latitudes. In the southern hemisphere, these forests are found in the uplands of Chile, New Zealand, Tasmania, and Southeast Australia. These forests are also found in the Northern slopes of foothills of Himalayas.
Main Species of Trees
Unlike equatorial forests which have the world’s largest species of plants, coniferous forests have limited species because of extreme winter conditions. The main species of trees found here are pine, fir, larch, and spruce. The main types of trees found in coniferous forests include black spruce, white spruce, balsam fir, redwood, Douglas fir, white pine, sugar pine, ponderosa pine, Jeffrey pine, cypresses, and cedars.
The trees in the coniferous forest are evergreen and grow to a great height like equatorial forests. These trees do not shed their leaves, This is because there is no dry season, the rainfall is 25-100 cm which is moderate. But the density of coniferous forests is moderate, unlike equatorial forests. This is the reason that coniferous forests are easy to explore.
Due to conical shape, trees can survive the subarctic climate. The leaves are thick, leathery and needle-like to check excessive transpiration. The branches of trees are upside down like a cone to protect breaking under the weight of the snow.
Also, the wood is soft but the bark is thick to protect from the cold. The soil is poor in its nutrient content and humus. Due to leaching, the soil is very acidic. The absence of sunlight prevents the growth of underneath shrubs.
Reproduction in Coniferous Trees
Pollens are produced in the male cones and is transported by the wind to the female cones of another tree to fertilize them. Once fertilized, female cones begin to grow seeds. The seeds within a female cone take up to two years to grow to maturity.
Coniferous forest is the source of the world’s largest timber and pulp production. Conifers grow fast and they have good wood properties, therefore they are ideal for timber. Therefore we know the coniferous trees as timber world’s softwoods.
Conifers trees are for their use as pulp for the production of paper and use as a Christmas tree. Some species of conifers also produce edible seeds like pine nuts. Canada is the largest producer of newspaper print in the world, whereas the USA is the largest producer of wood pulp in the world.
Conifer trees are important because the process of photosynthesis removes carbon from the atmosphere and their giant trunks can store immense amounts of carbon for hundreds if not thousands of years. Conifers also provide important habitat and shelter for many animal species.
Solved Question for You
Q. Why are Coniferous trees the main source of wood pulp and timber?
Ans: Coniferous forest exists in the subarctic region like Canada, Scandinavian Europe, central and Southern Russia ( Siberia), etc. The outer bark of the tree is very hard but the inner part is soft. We use the inner part for making wood pulp and use the outer part as a hardwood.
Also, there is not much growth of shrubs underneath, making cutting and commercial use of these forests easier. No doubt, region with coniferous forest in the USA and Canada are the largest timber producing regions of the world.