North American forest
Pando Aspen Grove
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North American forest : It contains what seem to be around 47,000 individual trees, but the Pando grove of central Utah is in fact one giant living organism—a clonal colony of quaking aspen. All of its trees are genetically identical, and all began as ramets, or suckers, growing from and sharing a single root system.
Some scientists, however, believe that the figure could be closer to 1 million. Recently, Pando’s survival has been threatened because deer and moose eat its ramets. Parts of the forest are now fenced off so that new suckers grow undisturbed.Ancient roots Aspen clonal colonies are common in North America. What makes Pando—Latin for “I spread”—special is its size: it sprawls over 108 acres (44 hectares), with an estimated weight of 6,615 tons (6,000 tonnes). Pando’s accepted age is also unusual. Although individual trunks live around 100–150 years, the clonal root system is thought to be at least 80,000 years old.
Rain Forest Coastal temperate rain forests are a very rare forest type. Today, they are believed to cover just 116,700 square miles (302,200 square km)—less than 0.2 percent of Earth’s land area. The Pacific Northwest measures annual rainfall in feet, and 8–14ft (2.5–4.2m) is not unusual. Constantly decaying cedar, Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, and coast redwood needles and deciduous leaves create rich soil that supports hundreds of moss, fern, and invertebrate species, while rivers, lakes, and streams are home to salmon and trout, which in turn attract bears and bald eagles.Oceans, mountains, and high rainfall are features of these forests, and the largest intact areas stretch from northern California to Canada and the Gulf of Alaska.
Boreal forest, or taiga, is the world’s largest terrestrial biome, consisting of vast expanses of mostly conifer species.Lakes, rivers, and wetlands are numerous, making the North American boreal forest Earth’s largest source of unfrozen freshwater. Because it is still relatively intact, this is a vital habitat for wildlife such as moose and brown bears, and a breeding ground for up to 3 billion North American birds.In North America alone, 2 million square miles (6 million square km) of boreal forest stretches from Alaska to Newfoundland, and from the Great Lakes as far as the Arctic tundra. Cold-climate forest The boreal forest is also known as a snow forest due to its climate.
Short, humid summers of 50–100 frost-free days are followed by long, cold winters with up to six months of temperatures below freezing. Precipitation falls mainly as snow. Conifers, such as spruce, are well adapted to survive such rigorous conditions (see panel, below), and they dominate the landscape.
The Giant Forest
A tale of two redwoods Giant sequoias are often called redwoods and vice versa, but while both species are native to California and share similar cinnamon-colored bark and heady heights, they are decidedly different.Growing at the heart of central California’s Sequoia National Park, in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains, the Giant Forest is home to more than 8,000 giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum). While they may not be the world’s tallest trees, they are easily the largest by volume.
The largest tree in the world, the Giant Forest’s General Sherman, stands just 275ft (84m) high but is more than 100ft (30m) wide and weighs an estimated 1,350 tons (1,225 tonnes). At 52,513 cubic feet (1,487 cubic meters), it is the single largest living organism by volume in the world.
The trees of the Giant Forest generally grow at elevations of 4,900–6,900 ft (1,500–2,100m) on western Sierra Nevada slopes, making them much more cold- hardy than coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), which grow at lower coastal elevations. Giant sequoias live for around 3,000 years (as opposed to the redwoods’ 2,000), and their bark is up to 2ft (60cm) thick. Sequoias do not grow as tall as redwoods—the maximum is around 310 ft (95 m) compared to the redwoods’ 380 ft (115m)— but what they lack in height is made up for in girth.
The Cherokee National Forest
The Cherokee National Forest follows Tennessee’s state border with North Carolina, covering around 1,015 square miles (2,630 square km) of the Appalachian Mountains’ eastern slopes.
The Cherokee forest is a natural sanctuary, with more than 20,000 plant and animal species. Beech, hickory, sassafras, birch, maple, and numerous types of oaks are just some of the forest’s common trees, attracting more than 120 bird species, including the threatened red- cockaded woodpecker.Because the southern Appalachians were not covered by glaciers during the last ice age, diverse plant and animal species flourished, and the forests that covered the mountains provided a relatively isolated habitat until the mid-19th century.