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Formation Detail Report: F008
Cool Temperate Forest & Woodland Formation

The U.S. National
Vegetation Classification
Cool Temperate Forest & Woodland includes temperate deciduous forest and woodland, temperate needle-leaved forest and woodland, and temperate rainforest, dominated by broad-leaved or needle-leaved tree growth forms.
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Translated Name:Cool Temperate Forest & Woodland Formation
Colloquial Name:Cool Temperate Forest & Woodland
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.
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).
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.
Vegetation Hierarchy
Name:Database Code:Classification Code:
Class 1 Forest & Woodland C01 1
Subclass 1.B Temperate & Boreal Forest & Woodland S15 1.B
Formation 1.B.2 Cool Temperate Forest & Woodland F008 1.B.2
Division 1.B.2.Na Eastern North American Forest & Woodland D008 1.B.2.Na
Division 1.B.2.Nc Western North American Pinyon - Juniper Woodland & Scrub D010 1.B.2.Nc
Division 1.B.2.Nd Vancouverian Forest & Woodland D192 1.B.2.Nd
Division 1.B.2.Nb Rocky Mountain Forest & Woodland D194 1.B.2.Nb
Division 1.B.2.Ne North American Great Plains Forest & Woodland D326 1.B.2.Ne
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.
Synonomy: > Cool Temperate Forest (Brown et al. 1998) [Brown et al. place the subalpine forests of the montane regions in their "Boreal and Subalpine Forest and Woodland" type.]
< Taiga or Subarctic - Subalpine needle-leaved forests: biome-type 6 (Whittaker 1975) [Whittaker combines the subalpine forests of the temperate region with boreal forests.]
> Temperate deciduous forests: biome-type 4 (Whittaker 1975)
> Temperate evergreen (needle-leaved) forest: biome-type 5 (Whittaker 1975) [Whittaker includes both temperate evergreen broadleaf and temperate evergreen needle-leaved forest in this biome-type, but notes the distinction between the two in Plate 4.]
> Temperate rain forests: biome-type 3 (Whittaker 1975)

Related Type Name:

Short Citation:
  • Brady and Weil 2002
  • Brandt 2009
  • Brown et al. 1998
  • Faber-Langendoen et al. 2015c
  • Lea pers. comm.
  • Soil Survey Staff 1999
  • Walter 1985
  • Whittaker 1975
  • Woodward 1997
States/Provinces:
Nations:AU, CA, CL, CN, ES, FR, GB, IT, JP, MX, NZ, RU, SE, TR, US
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.
US Forest Service Ecoregions
Domain Name:
Division Name:
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Province Code:   Occurrence Status:
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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).
Climate: This formation is associated with cooler continental and oceanic temperate climates (Koeppen Dca, Dcb, and Do, and Cfb). There is a growing season of approximately 100 to 200 days, confined to late spring and summer when freezing temperatures are infrequent or absent. The 50 to 150 cm (20-60 inches) of precipitation are distributed evenly throughout the year. The non-growing season is due to temperature-induced drought during the cold winters.

Soil/substrate/hydrology: Soils are sometimes referred to as "gray forest soils," where silicate clay minerals accumulate in the B horizon. Some soils (Alfisols) have relatively high natural fertility; others are more leached, due to higher precipitation levels (Ultisols) and more common in the warmer parts of the region. Other orders in the U.S. system include Spodosols in the more northern regions and Inceptisols (Soil Survey Staff 1999) [see Brady and Weil (2002) for comparison of U.S. soil orders with Canadian and FAO systems].
Moderate
No Data Available
Authors:
D. Faber-Langendoen      Version Date: 17Oct2014


References:
  • Brady, N. C., and R. R. Weil. 2002. The nature and properties of soils. Thirteenth edition. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  • Brandt, J. P. 2009. The extent of the North American boreal zone. Environmental Review 17:101-161.
  • Brown, D. E., F. Reichenbacher, and S. E. Franson. 1998. A classification of North American biotic communities. The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City. 141 pp.
  • Faber-Langendoen, D., T. Keeler-Wolf, D. Meidinger, C. Josse, A. Weakley, D. Tart, G. Navarro, B. Hoagland, S. Ponomarenko, J.-P. Saucier, G. Fults, and E. Helmer. 2015c. Classification and description of world formation types. General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-000. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, CO.
  • Lea, Chris. Personal communication. Ecologist, formerly with National Park Service, USGS / NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, Denver, CO.
  • Soil Survey Staff. 1999. Soil taxonomy: A basic system of soil classification for making and interpreting soil surveys. Second edition. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Washington, DC.
  • Walter, H., translated by O. Muise. 1985. Vegetation of the Earth and ecological systems of the geo-biosphere. Third edition. Springer-Verlag, New York. 149 pp.
  • Whittaker, R. H. 1975. Communities and ecosystems. Second edition. Macmillan Publishing Co., New York. 387 pp.
  • Woodward, S. L. 1997. The Virtual Geography Department Project and the Department of Geography, Radford University. [http://www.radford.edu/~swoodwar/CLASSES/GEOG235/biomes/main.html]


USNVC Credits: Detailed Description of the National Vegetation Classification Types

Date Accessed:

To cite a description:
Author(s). publicationYear. Description Title [last revised revisionDate]. United States National Vegetation Classification. Federal Geographic Data Committee, Washington, D.C.

About spatial standards:
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About this document
This document contains type descriptions at the Formation level of the U.S. National Vegetation Classification. These descriptions were primarily written by NatureServe ecologists in collaboration with Federal Geographic Data Committee Vegetation Subcommittee and a wide variety of state, federal and private partners as a part of the implementation of the National Vegetation Classification. Formation descriptions were written by the Hierarchy Revisions Working Group. The descriptions are based on consultation with natural resource professionals, published literature, and other vegetation classification systems. The Ecological Society of America's Panel on Vegetation Classification is responsible for managing the review and formal adoption of these types into the National Vegetation Classification. Partners involved in the implementation of the USNVC include:

U.S. Government
  • Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Department of Commerce (DOC)
  • Department of Defense (DOD)
  • Department of the Interior (USDI)
  • Forest Service (FS) - Chair
  • National Agriculture Statistical Service (NASS)
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
  • U.S. Navy (NAVY)
  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
  • National Park Service (NPS)
  • U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Non U.S. Government
  • NatureServe (NS)
  • Ecological Society of America (ESA)

Disclaimer:
Given the dynamic nature of the standard, it is possible a type description is incomplete or in revision at the time of download; therefore, users of the data should track the date of access and read the revisions section of the USNVC.org website to understand the current status of the classification. While USNVC data have undergone substantial review prior to posting, it is possible that some errors or inaccuracies have remained undetected.

For information on the process used to develop these descriptions see:

Faber-Langendoen, D., T. Keeler-Wolf, D. Meidinger, D. Tart, B. Hoagland, C. Josse, G. Navarro, S. Ponomarenko, J.-P. Saucier, A. Weakley, P. Comer. 2014. EcoVeg: A new approach to vegetation description and classification. Ecological Monographs 84:533-561 (erratum 85:473).

Franklin, S., D. Faber-Langendoen, M. Jennings, T. Keeler-Wolf, O. Loucks, A. McKerrow, R.K. Peet, and D. Roberts. 2012. Building the United States National Vegetation Classification. Annali di Botanica 2: 1-9.

Jennings, M. D., D. Faber-Langendoen, O. L. Louckes, R. K. Peet, and D. Roberts. 2009. Standards for associations and alliances of the U.S. National Vegetation Classification. Ecological Monographs 79(2):173-199.

FGDC [Federal Geographic Data Committee]. 2008. Vegetation Classification Standard, FGDC-STD-005, Version 2. Washington, DC., USA. [http://www.fgdc.gov/standards/projects/FGDC-standards-projects/vegetation/NVCS_V2_FINAL_2008-02.pdf]

For additional information contact:

  • Implementation of the U.S. National Vegetation Classification Standard - Alexa McKerrow (amckerrow@usgs.gov)
  • NatureServe's Development of NVC Type Descriptions - Don Faber-Langendoen (don_faber- langendoen@natureserve.org)
  • Ecological Society of America's Review of the Type Descriptions Scott.Franklin@unco.edu
  • Federal Geographic Data Committee - Vegetation Subcommittee's Activities - Marianne Burke (mburke@fs.fed.us)
Todd Keeler-Wolf, Ken Baldwin, Chris Lea