The term "rainforest" has, for many people, an image of tall trees with hanging vines and orchids inhabited by animals including jaguars, monkeys, noisy parrots and macaws, poison arrow frogs, brilliant butterflies, and vicious crocodilians and piranha. For the tropical Amazon rainforest, this image may be true, but a different type of rainforest, the temperate rainforest, holds different animal populations. Temperate rainforests around the world provide homes for unique and diverse animal populations.
Temperate Rainforest Locations
Temperate rainforests are found along west coasts in the temperate latitudes. The largest temperate rainforest stretches from Alaska into northern California in North America. Temperate rainforests are also located along the coast of Chile, the United Kingdom, Norway, Japan, New Zealand and South Australia.
Weather in Temperate Rainforests
Rainfall of the temperate rainforest ranges from 60 to 200 inches of rain per year. Some of this precipitation may occur as snow, especially in higher elevations. An additional 7 to 12 inches of precipitation per year comes from fog. Temperate rainforests, unlike tropical rainforests, usually have two seasons: a long wet season and a short dry season. Temperate rainforest temperatures average between 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 70 degrees Fahrenheit but can drop as low as 32F.
Temperate Rainforest Plants
Temperate rainforest species of trees do not have the diversity of tropical rainforest tree species. Temperate rainforests generally have 10 to 25 species of trees, mostly conifers. Temperate rainforests, however, contain the highest productivity and greatest biomass of any rainforests, including tropical rainforests. The cool, moist environment slows decomposition, and trees in this biome grow for long periods of time. The coast redwood (California and Oregon, North America) and alerce (Chile) are among the largest and oldest trees on Earth.
Temperate Rainforest Animals
Temperate rainforest animals range from small birds, insects and mammals to large mammals and predatory birds. While some animals of the temperate rainforest are unique to that habitat, many would also be found on a list of nearby deciduous forest biome animals.
North American Temperate Rainforest Animals
In North America, animals of the temperate rainforest include invertebrates like banana slugs and thousands of species of insects and spiders. Small mammals like voles, flying squirrels, mice and chipmunks provide food for spotted owls, great horned owls, hawks and eagles. Over 250 species of birds live in the Olympic National Park in Washington, including woodpeckers, Stellar jays, gray jays, blue grouse, ruffed grouse, varied thrush, bald eagles, warblers, sparrows and kingfishers. Deer and Roosevelt elk graze in the forest. Black bears eat salmon, steelhead and trout along with berries, fruit and insects. Black bears, bobcats and mountain lions are the major predators of this biome.
Chile's Temperate Rainforest Animals
The temperate rainforest along the coast of Chile is the world's second largest temperate rainforest. Animals found here include the Magellanic woodpecker and the Juan Fernández firecrown hummingbird with its crown of color-changing feathers. A wide range of frogs share the forest with toads and other amphibians. Iguanas dominate the reptile population. The large bird population includes ducks like the cinnamon teal and the red shoveler, geese like the kelp goose and Andean goose, and a variety of woodpeckers, owls, hawks, harriers and vultures. Mammals include the world's smallest deer, the southern pudú, and South America's smallest cat, the kodkod. The monito del monte, an arboreal marsupial, also lives here.
Australia's Temperate Rainforests Animals
Australia has two types of temperate rainforests. The warm temperate rainforests grow in New South Wales and Victoria. The cool temperate rainforests occur in Victoria, Tasmania, and small areas at higher altitudes in New South Wales and Queensland. Wallabies (relatives of kangaroos), bandicoots (omnivorous marsupials about the size of an opossum) and potoroos (another kangaroo relative that resembles the bandicoot) all live on the floor of the Australian temperate rainforest. Tasmania's cool temperate rainforest is home for mammals like the Tasmanian long-tailed mouse, ringtail possum, spotted tail quoll and pademelon. 21 species of birds can be seen here, including black currawong, green rosella, olive whistler and grey goshawk. Reptiles living here include the Tasmanian tree frog, tiger snake and brown skink. Representatives of ancient and primitive invertebrate species include the large land snail, Macleay's swallowtail butterfly, freshwater crayfish and velvet worm.
Other Temperate Rainforests
Temperate rainforests occur in small pockets in Europe, Asia, New Zealand and Japan. Like the larger temperate rainforests, the cool and damp environment supports populations of invertebrates ranging from snails and slugs to insects and spiders; birds from songbirds to woodpeckers, owls and hawks; small mammals; and larger predators, often in the cat family.
- National Geographic: American Black Bear
- World Builders: The Temperate Rain Forest
- ZooBorns: Pudu
- Animal Diversity Web: Leopardus Guigna
- University of California, Santa Barbara: Kids Do Ecology – RainForest
- Marietta College: The Temperate Rainforest
- University of Wisconsin-Madison: Temperate Rain Forest
- National Geographic Society: Rain Forest
- Olympic National Park: Birdwatching in Olympic National Park
- Global Species: Chilean Winter Rainfall-Valdivian Forests
- World Atlas: The Biodiversity Hotspot of the Valdivian Temperate Rainforest
- Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources: Rainforest
- Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service: Tasmania's Cool Temperate Rainforest
- Bush Heritage Australia: Bandicoots
- Queensland Department of Environment and Science: Long-nosed Potoroo
- Ministry of the Environment: The Wildlife in Japan
- The Bear goes where the Bear wants to go image by Ian Shorr from Fotolia.com