Common (Translated Scientific) Name: Cool Temperate Forest & Woodland Formation
Colloquial Name: Cool Temperate Forest & Woodland
Hierarchy Level: Formation
Type Concept: Cool Temperate Forest & Woodland includes temperate deciduous forest and woodland, temperate needle-leaved forest and woodland, and temperate rainforest. These forests are dominated by broad-leaved or needle-leaved tree growth forms. Rainforest trees may attain great heights; trees easily exceed 50 m, but these forests more typically range from 10 to 30 m in height. They are found in oceanic temperate to cool-temperate continental climates, with summer rainfall and cold winters (during which the broad-leaved trees lose their leaves), extending to treeline, where they resemble boreal forests.
The formation is most prominent in the Northern Hemisphere, where it occurs in four major, formation expressions in (1) western and central Europe, (2) eastern Asia, including Korea and Japan, (3) eastern North America, and (4) western North America. It occurs as small formation expressions in the Southern Hemisphere, including southern South America (Chile and Argentina), southern Australia, and New Zealand. This formation is associated with cooler continental and oceanic temperate climates (Koeppen Dca, Dcb, and Do, and in Europe, Cfb). There is an approximately 6-month growing season. The 50 to 150 cm (20-60 inches) of precipitation is distributed evenly throughout the year. The non-growing season is due to temperature-induced drought during the cold winters.
Forest structure is usually complex in moist climates and habitats, commonly consisting of five strata: (1) a tree stratum, 15-35 m (60-100 feet) tall, dominated by broad-leaved deciduous and/or needle-leaved evergreen species, often with a substratum of small trees (5-15 m tall); (2) a small-tree and tall-sapling layer (between 2-5 m); (3) a short-shrub layer (<2 m); (4) an herb layer of perennial forbs, including an ecological group with species that bloom primarily in early spring (in deciduous broadleaf-dominated examples); and (5) a ground layer of lichens, clubmosses, and true mosses. Lichens and mosses also grow on the trunks of trees. In dry and fire-dependent climates and regions, the structure may be simple, with a tree layer (>10%) and a strong grassy or shrubby ground layer. Natural disturbances include wind and fire.
Diagnostic Characteristics: This formation contains pure or mixed stands of broad-leaved deciduous or needle-leaved evergreen tree growth forms, with a seasonal green understory of herbs. The tall-shrub layer is variable, and is often broad-leaved deciduous, but the short-shrub layer may be heath. The moss layer is often sparse, but more dominant in cold, rainy and/or high montane needle-leaved evergreen stands. Snow may be on the ground between 1 to 6 months of the year (8 months in high montane temperate examples).
Rationale for Nominal Species or Physiognomic Features: The term "Cool Temperate" covers the range of physiognomic variability (and genera) that correlate with these climatic conditions. In the scientific name, the term "Cool Temperate" could be replaced by a more descriptive physiognomic set of terms.
Classification Comments: This formation includes a range of conifer and broad-leaved hardwood growth forms. The formation is sometimes restricted to "temperate broadleaf forest regions," but even there, pure conifer stands can occur, e.g., in temperate eastern North America, there are pure conifer stands of Tsuga canadensis and Pinus strobus. Inclusion of western North American conifer forests in this cool-temperate formation rather than the Boreal Forest & Woodland follows that of Brandt (2009) and others. Warm-temperate and cool-temperate forest and woodland formations are very similar, but differences are driven by broad climatic patterns. Overlap with boreal forests in the western montane region also presents conceptual challenges.
Various ecoregional treatments recognize the distinct vegetation and climate of the cool-temperate region, e.g., Brown et al. (1998) separate cool-temperate from warm-temperate vegetation. Walter (1985) recognizes the cool-temperate biome "Zonobiome of the Temperate-Nemoral Climate" (Zone VI) distinct from two warm-temperate biomes, the "Zonobiome of the Winter-Rain Region with an Arid-Humid Climate and Sclerophyllic Woodlands" (Zone IV) and the "Zonobiome of the Warm-Temperate Humid Climate" (Zone V), and from the boreal biome "Zonobiome of the Cold-temperate Boreal Climate" (Zone VIII).
Our approach treats the subalpine forests of the Rocky Mountain region as part of 1.B.2 Cool Temperate Forest & Woodland Formation (F008), rather than as part of 1.B.4 Boreal Forest & Woodland Formation (F001), such as done by Whittaker (1975) and Brown et al. (1998). Our decision is in line with a more biogeographic approach for divisions, and corresponds to that of Rivas-Martinez et al. (1999b), but is debatable from a structural and climatic perspective. As Chris Lea (pers. comm. 2012) notes, one could retain lowland and lower montane western coniferous forests in Cool Temperate, but move high montane and subalpine to the Boreal formation, to which they also have strong floristic and environmental similarities (this would require a name change of the latter to something like "Boreal & High Montane" or "Boreal & Subalpine" formation). This would have minimal impact on lower level units, requiring only a transfer of two current western North America groups (G020 and G025) to F001, under a new (western North American) division of F001 and eastern North America group G024 (requires a new macrogroup and division, but the description of these would be identical with the existing group description). The only major new description for Forests and Woodlands would be a new division description for "Western North America High Montane & Subalpine Forest," within formation F001. These forests, fairly simply, contain quaking aspen and lodgepole pine on up through the Engelmann spruce-fir types. In the Sierra Nevada, Ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, "mixed conifers" (white fir, etc.) represent the upper limits of 1.B.3 Temperate Flooded & Swamp Forest Formation (F026). The Shrubland & Grassland class needs no formation-level adjustments, but some lower level adjustments might be needed for consistency. We will continue to review this issue as we compare our work with that of Eurasian treatments of boreal and cool-temperate (nemoral) forests.
Similar NVC Types:
F001 Boreal Forest & Woodland, note: Greatly simplified set of growth forms, primarily more conical-shaped spruce, fir and larch, and simple-leaved boreal hardwoods of Betula spp. and Populus spp. Moss layer often very prominent. Persistence of snow typically greater than 5 months of the year. Frost possible in almost any season. These conditions also closely describe North American subalpine and high montane forests, but those are treated here with 1.B.2 ~Cool Temperate Forest & Woodland Formation (F008)$$ because of the floristic, biogeographic and ecological similarities with lower elevation forests. See Brown et al. (1998) who recognize a "Boreal and Subalpine Forest & Woodland" type.
F012 Temperate Grassland & Shrubland, note: Open woodlands or tree savannas, with grassy or shrubby understories, and with trees 10% cover or more, are placed in 1.B.2 ~Cool Temperate Forest & Woodland Formation (F008)$$, but may have strong floristic similarities to grasslands.
F018 Warm Temperate Forest & Woodland, note: Has increasing prominence of evergreen broad-leaved trees, and shrubs, and evergreen herb ground layer. Snow virtually absent, frost is relatively rare.
F026 Temperate Flooded & Swamp Forest, note: 1.B.2 ~Cool Temperate Forest & Woodland Formation (F008)$$ typically contains well-drained soils and lacks any aquatic vegetation, peat or muck layer.
CFO02 Forest Plantation & Agroforestry, note: Long-rotation plantations or woody restoration plantings of 1.B.2 ~Cool Temperate Forest & Woodland Formation (F008)$$ with an irregular structure and a largely spontaneous ground layer may initially be similar in their early stages of development, especially if planted in rows and the understory is strongly manipulated.
Physiognomy and Structure: In moist climates and habitats, there are commonly five strata: (1) a tree stratum, 15-35 m (60-100 feet) tall, dominated by broad-leaved deciduous and/or needle-leaved evergreen forest, often with a substratum of small trees (5-15 m tall); (2) a small-tree and tall-sapling layer (between 2-5 m); (3) a short-shrub layer (<2 m); (4) an herb layer of perennial forbs, including an ecological group that bloom primarily in early spring (in deciduous broadleaf-dominated examples); and (5) a ground layer of lichens, clubmosses, and true mosses. Lichens and mosses also grow on the trunks of trees. Woody vines (lianas) are not common. In dry and fire-dependent climates and regions, the structure may be simple, with a tree layer (>10%) and a strong grassy or shrubby ground layer. In western North America, structure is more variable, reflecting the range of ecological sites, from high mountains and valleys, to coastal rainforests with a variety of mesoclimates. Structural variability ranges from short-statured conifers, with a sparse understory and heavy duff layer, to the tallest and largest trees in the world in moist to wet climates, with shrub, herb and moss growth forms prominent (Whittaker 1975).
Many of the genera, previously part of an Arcto-Tertiary Geoflora, are common to all three of the disjunct Northern Hemisphere broadleaf expressions of this biome. Included among these genera are Quercus (oak), Acer (maple), Fagus (beech), Castanea (chestnut), Carya (hickory), Ulmus (elm), Tilia (basswood or linden), Juglans (walnut), and Liquidambar (sweetgum). Different species of these genera occur on each continent. In the Southern Hemisphere different sets of genera and species are found. Western North America contains a much reduced set of hardwood genera and expanded conifer diversity (Abies, Picea, Pinus, Pseudotsuga, Thuja, Tsuga). Transitions to the boreal forests are also apparent.
The temperate regions of the Southern Hemisphere differ from their northern counterparts. Distinctions between warm-temperate and cool-temperate are much contracted (e.g., in parts of the evergreen southern beech Nothofagus forests in South America, Australia and New Zealand).
Dynamics: No Data Available
Geographic Range: This formation is most prominent in the Northern Hemisphere, where it occurs in four major, disjunct expressions in (1) western and central Europe, (2) eastern Asia, including Korea and Japan, (3) eastern North America, and (4) western North America. Cool-temperate forests may occur as minor components of southern and montane New Zealand and in Australia, especially Tasmania. Cool-temperate forests also occur in Chile.
Inclusion of western North American conifer forests and woodlands in this temperate formation (rather a broadly defined boreal and temperate conifer forest) follows that of Brandt (2009). However, some authors expand the boreal formation to include the subalpine or high montane forests within the temperate zone (e.g., Whittaker (1975) - the "subarctic-subalpine needle-leaved forests"; Brown et al. (1998) - Boreal and Subalpine Forest & Woodland). Within North America, this creates challenges for placement of Picea rubens (red spruce) forests in the northern temperate region, which are partly subalpine or high montane, but are most common at lower elevations. We follow a more floristic, biogeographic and ecological approach in treating the subalpine forests with their lower elevation counterparts at the formation level. But we recognize that high montane and subalpine forests are also similar to boreal forests in regard to some aspects of climate, species diversity patterns, and floristic similarity (at least at the genus level). Warm-temperate and cool-temperate forest & woodland formations are very similar, but differences are driven by increasing presence of broad-leaved evergreen trees and shrubs, and evergreen herb layer that corresponds with broad climatic patterns. Overlap with boreal forests in the western montane region also presents conceptual challenges.
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