Watch and listen to two recent talks given by Dr. Dominick DellaSala at the University of British Columbia (UNBC) Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Institute. Videos are available on the UNBC website, or click below to go directly to Dominick’s talks.
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.
Temperate 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.
Given 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.
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:
- Pacific Coast of North America (redwoods to Alaska containing the greatest extent of these rainforests globally)
- Inland northwest British Columbia and portions of Idaho and Montana
- Eastern Canada (portions of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, eastern Quebec)
- Europe (Norway is boreal; British Isles, Ireland, Swiss Alps, and Bohemia are temperate);
- Western Eurasian Caucasus (Georgia, Turkey, Iran)
- Russian Far East and Inland Southern Siberia (transitional between boreal and temperate)
- Japan and Korea
- Australasia (Australian mainland, Tasmania, New Zealand)
- South Africa (Knysna-Tsitsikamma)
- Chile & Argentina (Valdivia temperate rainforests)