When deciding on a title for each volume in the Encyclopedia of the Biosphere, the editors wanted a term like savannah or desert, which readers could easily understand. However, the atypical biomes, such as the temperate rainforest described in this volume, cannot be summed up in a concise term. Therefore, we understand that some readers may be wondering what a temperate rainforest is.
A rainforest is a wet forest with lush, diverse vegetation. Rainforests are common in the equatorial or intertropical zones and form the tropical rainforest biome, the classic rainforest or jungle. Similar situations also appear at higher latitudes, outside the tropics, in rainy areas (often linked to the land-sea interface), where a combination of factors causes high local rainfall. Thus, they are not hot rainforests, since they occur at relatively high latitudes, with highly seasonal climates, where winters may be very cold and maximum temperatures are relatively low. This temperate rainy climate gives rises to lush forests, called temperate rainforests.
The temperate rainforest area is heterogeneous. It is made up of small areas that are scattered like pieces of paper over a map. It has evergreen broadleaf trees with shiny leaves like the laurel, which form mixed forests with a wide range of different conifers, trees with needle leaves that are thin and sharp. The temperate rainforest can be found in Oregon, Florida, southern Chile, in the Parana region of Brazil, in Japan, in the Azores, in Tasmania, and in New South Wales. The rainforests may be huge forests of tall conifers, such as in Washington or in southern Australia, or they may be shady, foggy, evergreen broadleaf forests, such as in the Canary Islands or in southern China.
These diverse and geographically distant plant formations share a common climate and biological history. The temperate evergreen broadleaf rainforests are the remains of ecosystems that were widespread during the Tertiary period and were adapted to the climate of the time. Now they are restricted to a few isolated strongholds, where climatic conditions are similar to those of that period. Thus, they have preserved some common floristic elements, as well as similarities in their ecological metabolism and morphological structure between the conifer forests, the evergreen broadleaf forests, and the tall Eucalyptus species forests.
As always happens with archeological remains, it is important to assess the excavation as a whole and to compare it with other excavations of sites left by the same culture. Taken separately, broken vases, pieces of a column, fragments of pottery or a broken stele, may (or may not) be beautiful and tell us little. When the fragments are put together, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, they make sense and give us a new picture. The scattered and humanized contemporary temperate rainforests are like remains of the Tertiary "culture": They combine to reveal a fascinating world. Their heterogeneity can be understood as the result of historical and geographical happenstance. Similarly, fossils can be considered as part of an archeological jigsaw puzzle as well.
Little is known about the "culture" of the temperate rainforests. Until recently, this specific "culture" had not been recognized. This volume of Encyclopedia of the Biosphere has a considerable added value because it attempts to give an overall picture of the biome. This can be undertaken because many items have been "excavated" that make it possible to suggest some general explanations. Nevertheless, the risk of error is high because we may have interpreted things in a way that will have to be revised in the future, when more information is available. In general, the ideas proposed here seem to be basically correct.
Above all, the temperate rainforest biome contains beautiful landscapes, halfway between the overwhelming abundance of the equatorial forests and the relatively low production of the temperate ecosystems. The evergreen broadleaf forests of Asia contain the most delicate Japanese and Chinese landscapes, inseparably linked to evergreen broadleaves like the oranges and the camellias, such as tea, and the culture associated with it, which spread all over the world from the Orient in the last few centuries. The South American evergreen broadleaf forests have their equivalent, yerba mate, a drink that is not as widely consumed as tea, but which will always be connected with the story of the Guarani republic that the Jesuits created in their reducciones, based on the cultivation and sale of yerba mate. The evergreen broadleaf forests also include the magnolia forests of the "Deep South" of the United States, which are connected with cotton plantations and steamboats, as well as the evergreen broadleaf forests of Macaronesia (the Canaries, Azores, and Maderia). Temperate rainforests have survived unexpectedly on arid islands where the trade winds bring moisture to some slopes.
The temperate rainforests also include the impressive coniferous forests of the Pacific coastline of North America, whose trunks and branches are often totally covered with ferns, mosses, and lichens. They also include the tall forests of eucalypts and podocarps in Australia and Tasmania, which are the homes of the world's tallest broadleaf trees and which have the most unusual fauna. Mixed forests, like the beautiful mosaic of southern beeches, Patagonian cypresses, and Araucaria, are scattered in highly diverse patches along the Pacific coastline of the southern Andes and reach (in the form of forests of Araucaria and podocarps) the Atlantic "planalto" of Brazil. This wide range of forest types comprises the temperate rainforests.
Combining these groups makes good ecological sense. These groups are full of anthropological contrasts. The temperate rainforests of southern South America were intact until recently, while those in China and Japan have probably been humanized longer than any other type of forest, except perhaps for those on the shores of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Almost no evergreen broadleaf forests remain in subtropical Asia or in the Caucasus. Logging in the forests of Oregon and Washington began in the nineteenth century, and there are still thousands of hectares [ha] that are almost intact. This does not mean that there are no major environmental problems in this area. In fact, some species are on the verge of extinction, such the spotted owl, which has become one of the symbols of the American conservation movement. The temperate rainforests of the Northwest Coast of North America were home to the wonderful totem art of the Tlingit, Haida, and Kwakiutl Indian tribes. Later, the rainforests saw the growth of major modern cities like Seattle, Washington. The temperate rainforests of southern South America were almost uninhabited in the pre-Columbian period and have recently begun to be exploited by the European colonists and their descendants.
With the exception of Asia, it has been the European colonists and their descendants who have occupied the temperate rainforest biome in the recent past. European colonization started with the colonization of the Canary Islands and their evergreen broadleaf forests, subjugating the Guanche population, when the Americas were still unknown. The seventeenth century voyages of exploration of the Dutchman Abel Tasman were followed in the eighteenth century by those of Captain James Cook, who claimed Australia and New Zealand for the British Crown. Cook landed in the temperate rainforest area of Australia, which is now Australia's leading city, Sydney. At this time, the area was sparsely populated, unlike the temperate rainforests of New Zealand, which were the home of the thriving Maori culture. The temperate rainforests of southern Chile were also colonized. The Mission forests of Paraguay and Argentina were colonized by many Portuguese and Spaniards, as were the Araucaria forests of Argentina and Brazil. The case of southeast North America is unusual because the Indian population was displaced by British and French colonists. This was followed by an influx of African slaves, who were brought by plantation owners of European origin.
The temperate rainforest biome is an ancient, relict biome. It is a jigsaw puzzle that is hard to reconstruct and interpret, especially where human pressure has made it difficult to assess its original area. Thus, for this volume on the temperate rainforests, we have had to search for collaborators and sources of information as widely scattered as the biome itself.
Locating, ordering, structuring, and documenting this information has been more difficult than for any of the other volumes of the Encyclopedia of the Biosphere. The editorial team was greatly helped in this task by Dr. Emilia Gutierrez, lecturer at the University of Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain, and an expert on the ecosystems of southern South America. Without her enthusiasm, experience, and involvement in the editorial process, it would have been very difficult for us to overcome the problems raised by this volume. We would like thank the other authors who have contributed their knowledge, especially Dr. Masahiko Ohsawa, of the Ecology Laboratory of Chiba University (Japan), who has coordinated the material on the Asiatic regions of the biome, under the general coordination of Dr. Emilia Gutierrez, and who has helped us greatly with the Japanese names for plants and animals.
In addition, we would like to thank the large number of persons and institutions for the facilities that they made available to us. We would like to thank Dr. Josep M. Montserrat, the director of Barcelona Botanical Garden, and his staff who have been helpful in locating bibliographic material and images, as well as Mr. Salvador Filella, of Barcelona Zoo, for his bibliographic help on matters relating to the fauna. We would also like to thank the staff of the archive and library of the Royal Botanic Garden of Madrid, Spain, and the Museo de America (the Museum of the Americas), also in Madrid, for their courteous, efficient attention. Also, we must thank the staffs of the British Library of London, England, and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, whose assistance has been very useful. Moreover, we were greatly helped with the information about the Tlingit by Sra. Mahala Alzamora and Sr. Basilio Baltasar. We would like to thank Mr. Francois Dautreseme, of Paris, France, for kindly letting us photograph some of the items from his collection, which was displayed by the Fundacio Miro (Barcelona) in its exhibition China, the Art of Living, the Art of Surviving and authorizing us to publish them. We would like to thank Sra. Rosa M. Malet, director of the foundation, for her help. We would like to thank Sr. Albert Torres, in the field of Chinese and Japanese ideograms, for his help, contributions, and advice. Many others, whose names are not listed here, have played equally important roles in the preparation of this volume. Once again, we would like to thank one of the "habitual" collaborators, Dr. Alexei Ghilarov.
Josep M. Camarasa
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|Title Annotation:||temperate rain forests|
|Author:||Folch, Ramon; Camarasa, Josep M.|
|Publication:||Encyclopedia of the Biosphere|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2000|
|Next Article:||The frontiers between oceans and continents.|