When thinking of the rainforest, you may envision the tropics, and with good reason--the world's largest rainforest is the steamy jungles of the Amazon. However, a rainforest is simply a forested area that receives high rainfall, so they occur all over the world. However, animals that choose to live in cooler (or temperate) rainforests adapt differently than those that live in the tropics.
Temperate Rainforest Definition
A temperate rainforest is any forest outside the tropics that receives a great deal of precipitation every year. Indeed, there are rainforests in Canada and Alaska, and as far south as New Zealand and the southern tip of Chile. Given the cold climates, these rainforests can actually be covered in snow for much of the year. Like all rainforests, these temperate rainforest have been rapidly disappearing with human expansion.
Animals of Temperate Rainforests
Given the cooler climates of temperate rainforests, the animals that inhabit these environments are very different from the those that live in the tropical rainforests. The cold also means that fewer animals live in temperate rainforests than in those closer to the equator. Common animals in North American temperate rainforests include:
- black bears
- mountain lions
- mule deer
- among others
Not all these animals have adapted to life in temperate rainforests the same way.
Winter is the biggest challenge for inhabitants of the temperate rainforests, when cold weather and heavy snowfall can eliminate many food sources. Hibernation is one way that animals have adapted. By sleeping through the winter, animals do not have to worry about battling for the limited food supply and weathering fierce winter storms. However, these animals must eat a tremendous amount of food the other three seasons to ensure they do not starve during the winter, as they can lose half their weight during hibernation. Raccoons, woodchucks, skunks and bears hibernate, though some hibernate more deeply than others that may stir occasionally during winter.
Another strategy for dealing with the extremes of winter in temperate rainforests is simply to leave. Many animals migrate during the winter, be it a short distance to lower and/or drier elevations or for thousands of miles. Birds are possibly the best example of migratory animals.
During the rest of the year, residents of temperate rainforests have to stay alive to enjoy its bounty. Temperate rainforests are nowhere near as colorful as their tropical counterparts, as they lack the bright greens and color palates of tropical plants and flowers. This means that many animals in temperate rainforests are also less colorful, so they can blend into their surroundings better and avoid being seen by predators or prey.
About the Author
Terry Mann has worked as a professional journalist for the last five years. Her work as appeared online and in print, in such publications as "The Philadelphia Inquirer" and "The Wall Street Journal."