Northern and Montane Coniferous Forest

Ponderosa pine in coniferous forest.

Climate:  Varies considerably.  Coniferous forests in New Mexico and Arizona are much drier than boreal forests and higher elevation forests.  Temperature ranges from -50 deg C to >30 deg C.  Precipitation range: 30 cm to ~200 cm.  

Typical Vegetation:  Various pines, spruces, firs, Douglas fir, aspen, and birch.  When fire played a larger role, these forests frequently had large grassy meadows (parks) and an understory of grasses and forbs.  Many pine forests are now very dense and subject to catastrophic fires.  Higher elevation trees are less fire tolerant.  Vegetation can vary considerably with location and elevation.  For example, this photograph of the Gran Tetons illustrates a number of vegetation communities.  Aspect, slope, and elevation plays a large role in species distribution.

Typical Animals:  Mule deer, elk, bears, numerous bird species, marmots in grassy meadows, mountain lion.  In the 19th century many game species were almost extirpated because of habitat change and market hunting.  Legal sport hunting fees have helped restore these animals throughout much of their former range.

Human Use and Conservation Issues:  Extensive modification caused by mining, railroad construction, timber cutting, fire suppression, and livestock grazing.   Increasing recreation pressure.  

Go here for Piñon-Juniper of Colorado New Mexico


D.J. Huebner, 2001, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Geography