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There are three types of rainforests: tropical, temperate, and boreal. Tropical rainforests are warm and very wet places found near the equator that receive some 60 to 160 inches rainfall evenly distributed throughout the year. In contrast, temperate and boreal rainforests are found at high latitudes (northern and southern hemispheres), generally near coastlines, and in very wet (40 to 100 inches or more) and cool (average annual temperature of 43- 52̊ F) places that receive up to a quarter of their annual rainfall in the summer, a time when other forest types are experiencing summer droughts. Boreal rainforests are found in northern latitudes and are at the cool end of the temperature spectrum, even cooler than temperate climates. While most of the world’s boreal forests are in dry climates, a small subset with coastal influences are wet enough to qualify as rainforests. Ecologists also have recognized them as rainforests, but the general public is unaware of this distinction or its importance. 

Post-fire Logging Scientist Letter

In an open letter to the U.S. Senate and President Obama, 276 scientists expressed concern that current legislation in both the House and Senate would use fear and misunderstanding about wildland fires to suspend federal environmental protections to expedite logging and clearcutting of both post-fire wildlife habitat and unburned old forests on National Forest lands, removing most of the structure a forest ecosystem needs to properly function.

The proposed House and Senate legislation addresses the borrowing of funds from other programs to cover costs of fire suppression. However, both bills would increase funding for suppression of mostly backcountry fires in remote areas, and neither would focus on, or prioritize, protection of rural communities. The best available science has shown that effective home protection from wildland fire depends on “defensible space” work within approximately 100 feet of individual structures, and improving the fire resistance of the homes themselves. Unfortunately, neither bill recognizes the ecological costs of further suppressing fire in fire-adapted ecosystems.

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Great Bear Rainforest Scientist Letter

Fifty-four scientists from nine countries, supported by prominent experts speaking at the Earth Summit in Rio, sent a letter to the Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, calling on her government to fully implement the agreements to protect the world renowned Great Bear Rainforest – announced more than six years ago. In the letter the  emphasized the importance of implementing the agreements within the next year.

“Most of the rare old-growth rainforests outside of the tropics have been logged, making it imperative that we safeguard the Great Bear Rainforest – the largest remaining temperate rainforest of its kind,” said Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist of the Geos Institute and an expert on temperate and boreal rainforests, who initiated the letter. “Scientists are eager to have a model of conservation that can be replicated around the world, and while we have hope with the Great Bear agreement, six years later it remains an unfinished job,” he added.

In the letter, the scientists point out that the Great Bear Rainforest is one of the few remaining large blocks of comparatively unmodified landscapes left on earth. The region includes over a quarter of the Pacific Coastal rainforests of North America that provide habitat for spectacular wildlife like the Spirit Bear and wild salmon runs that are increasingly rare throughout the world. Currently, half of the Great Bear Rainforest remains open to logging, but the scientists’ recommendation built into the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements was to set aside 70 percent of the natural old-growth forest that has yet to be implemented.

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Post-fire Logging and Clearcutting on National Forests Scientist Letter

Over 260 scientists sent a letter to the U.S. Senate and President Obama urging them to oppose two public lands logging bills, being promoted by the timber industry and their supporters in Congress, which the scientists say would be very destructive to forest ecosystems and wildlife on National Forests and other federal public forestlands. The bills, HR 2647 and S 1691, will not improve forest health or reduce fire risks by promoting widespread logging of ecologically rich post-fire “snag forest” and older forest in mostly remote areas of federal public forestlands. 

Instead they would eliminate most environmental analysis, prevent enforcement of environmental laws by the courts, and markedly reduce public participation in forest management decisions on public forests. The role of the timber industry in federal forest management would also unfairly increase under the deceptive guise of promoting decision-making by “collaborative” groups.

The scientists urged Congress and the Administration to oppose the misguided bills, which “misrepresent scientific evidence,” and instead focus on “ways for the public to co-exist with fires burning safely in the backcountry.”  They urged Senators and the President “to consider what the science is telling us: that post-fire habitats created by fire, including patches of severe fire, are ecological treasures rather than ecological catastrophes, and that post-fire logging does far more harm than good to public forests.” 

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Northwest Forest Plan Scientists Letter

In an open letter, 229 scientists hail the Northwest Forest Plan as a “global and regional model in biodiversity conservation and ecosystem management.” They cite recent studies reaffirming the importance of protective reserves for threatened species like spotted owls and other wildlife, as well as new studies describing improvements made under the protective elements of the Aquatic Conservation Strategy. Positive changes in watershed condition, for example, have taken place since the implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan in 1994 that have been driven mostly by road decommissioning and recovery of previously logged watersheds2. In addition, spotted owl numbers, while declining throughout most of the region, are faring better on federal lands managed under the protections of the Northwest Forest Plan than surrounding lands that are not.

“Erasing the protective land designations and weakening aquatic protections is a bit of a shell game,” DellaSala added. “There is nothing holding the Forest Service back from addressing climate change or new science within the constructs of the Northwest Forest Plan. The agency can already thin forests to address climate-related fire risks both inside and outside the reserve network.”

View the letter

temperate rainforests book

Temperate and Boreal Rainforests Book

temperate rainforests bookTemperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World: Ecology and Conservation

Edited by Geos Institute Chief Scientist, Dominick A. DellaSala, Ph.D.

News about the book’s 2012 national award, naming it “best of the best” for academic excellence.

Temperate and boreal rainforests are biogeographically unique. Compared to their tropical counterparts, they are rarer and at least as endangered. Because most temperate and boreal rainforests are marked by the intersection of marine, terrestrial, and freshwater systems, their rich ecotones are among the most productive regions on Earth. Many of them store more carbon per hectare than even tropical rainforests, contain some of the oldest and largest trees on the planet, and provide habitat for scores of rare and unique species including some with affinities dating back to the supercontinent Gondwanaland and when dinosaurs were king.

temperate rainforests carbon storage

Rainforests Play a Pivotal Role in Stabilizing the Global Climate

temperate rainforests carbon storageGiven temperate and boreal rainforests are very wet places and trees are relatively long-lived they are highly productive ecosystems that store carbon for centuries in massive trees, dense foliage, and productive soils. In fact, these rainforests are among the world’s champions in storing carbon.  In 2007, these cool-weather rainforests contained roughly 196 gigatonnes of carbon – the equivalent of more than six times the total annual carbon dioxide emissions from human activities.

temperate rainforests ten regions geos

10 Temperate and Boreal Rainforest Regions of the World

In 2011, Geos Institute and partners completed an updated global synthesis of temperate and boreal rainforests of the world, using advanced computer mapping and local partnerships with 32 scientists to identify just ten regions of the world that qualified as temperate and boreal rainforest:

temperate rainforests ten regions geos

  1. Pacific Coast of North America (redwoods to Alaska containing the greatest extent of these rainforests globally)
  2. Inland northwest British Columbia and portions of Idaho and Montana
  3. Eastern Canada (portions of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, eastern Quebec)
  4. Europe (Norway is boreal; British Isles, Ireland, Swiss Alps, and Bohemia are temperate);
  5. Western Eurasian Caucasus (Georgia, Turkey, Iran)
  6. Russian Far East and Inland Southern Siberia (transitional between boreal and temperate)
  7. Japan and Korea
  8. Australasia (Australian mainland, Tasmania, New Zealand)
  9. South Africa (Knysna-Tsitsikamma)
  10. Chile & Argentina (Valdivia temperate rainforests)

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