Coniferous Forests

These grow in the northern parts of North America, Europe and Asia in places a long way north of the equator. It is very cold in the winter and the growing season is very short. Soils are often thin and poor.

The Northern Coniferous Forest stretches in a great belt around the Northern Hemisphere and from Alaska, Canada, the USA, Scandinavia and Siberian Russia. A few tree species exist which are mainly conifers such as Pine, Spruce, Fir and Larch.

  •     The Northern Coniferous Forest is the world's main source of softwood timber and wood pulp.
  •     The forests are mainly managed in a sustainable way
  •     The Winters are very cold with temperatures well below zero with strong cold winters.
  •     They have short warm summers but with long hours of daylight in summer.
  •     They have low amounts of precipitation


  • The forests are evergreen.
  • The coniferous trees (fir, pine, spruce) are similar in height, shape and size.
  • There are often only two or three species of tree in one area.
  • Very few other types of vegetation grow in the forest.


  • The soil profile of a coniferous forest is called a podsol
  • The soil has a humus layer just below the surface.
  • The A horizon is grey in colour as it has lost its minerals through leaching.
  • The B horizon is a reddish-brown colour as the minerals lost from the layers above are deposited here.
  • The C horizon consists of stones and rocks.


The vegetation in the forest make many adaptations due to the harsh, cold climate.

Tree characteristics are as follows;

  • Conical shape - they are flexible and bend in strong winds
  • Downward sloping branches - snow slides off them more quickly
  • Evergreen - so that trees can grow as quick as possible in warm periods
  • Needle leaves - to reduce the loss of water
  • Thick bark - To protect the tree from severe cold

Human Uses of Coniferous Forests

  • Softwood Conifers are the world's main source of commercial timber. Their use has many advantages:
  • Except in very cold areas, they grow quickly and can be harvested every 40 - 50 years
  • Many trees of the same type grow together
  • Frozen ground in winter makes access easier  for machinery and transport
  • The softwood has many different uses - paper, construction & furniture etc
  • It can be harvested like a crop using modern machinery and the new method of clearcutting

Acid Rain

Over the past 50 years the world's coniferous forests have suffered from the problem of Acid Rain.

The main causes are

  • Sulphur dioxide from power stations and industry
  • Nitrogen Oxide from power stations and cars

These pollutants are carried across to areas such as Western Europe and affects forests in the ways you can see opposite.

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