A few articles back, I wrote about how plants evolved from bacteria over several hundreds of millions of years followed by an article of the results we see now… the World’s Biomes! As this is a woodworking site, how about we find out about the only biome type that is the source of our materials… forests!
Evolution of Forests
This might be difficult to imagine but for hundreds of millions of years ago, forests where just made up of plants. No animals, no birds, no insects (including mosquitoes)… not even a rogue dinosaur, the worlds surface was just made up of an enormous, unified carpet of green plants but a few inches high. With time, they grew taller and more diverse into the forest ecosystems we enjoy today. Forests started out being made up of only plants but have since diversified into a home for an incredible array of organisms of all types. Forest ecosystems have been so successful that they naturally made up a third of the Earths surface and contain 70% of the planets carbon within their living tissues. Forests ARE the world’s lungs.
Types of Forest Biomes
There are three main types of forest biomes that is the source of all our wood and their main distinction are the latitudes they find themselves on our planet.
Tropical forests are easily the most bio-diverse and abundant sources of life on our world, they are found within the latitudes of 23.5 degrees North and South of the Equator. The only seasons they experience are wet and dry with a pretty constant dose of 12 hour daylight throughout the year. There is very little fluctuation in weather as well with average temperatures hovering around 20-25 degrees Celsius with a healthy distribution of rain throughout the year. The trees in this environment are characterized as not having a deep root system and the soil they reside in is very poor in nutrients. Sadly, half of the the world’s tropical forests have been destroyed due to deforestation. Some of the woodworkers favorite woods found within this tropical haven are from the following trees: Brazil Nut, Cacao, Mahogany, Rosewood, Rubber Tree, Teak
Temperate forests are defined as having four, well defined seasons including winter and the plants live within a nutrient rich soil. Temperate forests occur occur within the boundaries of 23.5 degrees and 50 degrees of latitude. The temperature can range from -30 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees of Celsius and there is usually 3-4 tree species per square kilometer, unlike tropical forests which is in the hundreds per square kilometer. There are few old growth forests left, most of what is present are new growth after extensive logging and deforestation. Some of the tree species found within temperate forests are Beech, Cedar, Elm, Hickory, Ironwood, Maple, Oak and Willow.
Boreal Forests (taiga)
Boreal forests are characterized as having the shortest growing seasons of all the forests. While tropical forests support year long growing seasons, this drops by roughly a third for temperate forests and roughly another third for boreal forests. As such, the tree height drops accordingly with the ecosystems bio-diversity. Temperatures are moderate during summer but freezing and dry over the rest of the year and these boreal forests are mostly made up of evergreen conifers such as firs, pines and spruce. Due to their short growing season, they are especially vulnerable to logging and as such, boreal forests are slowly disappearing from our planet.
The Bottom Line
Trees are a limited and precious resource without the negative environmental impact of other materials, if properly managed, there is no reason why they cannot be used for generations to come.