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Diagram of food web in coniferos forest

Here we see a diagram of some of the food web interactions in a coniferous forest.

     The primary producers are the coniferous trees and the undergrowth beneath them: the small bushes, grasses, bulbs, mosses and ferns. These plants grow in soil enriched by the life processes of soil bacteria, nematodes, worms, fungi and protozoa: decomposers recycle the nutrients in fallen trees and needles. Because of cold winters and the toughness of the pine needles, decomposition is slow, and it may take several years to break down needles and twigs. When you walk in such a forest the ground is often carpeted with fallen needles.

     Rains and snow water the forest, and the runoff water collects in streams and small marshy areas. These areas provide habitat for willows, aspens, beavers, birds and fishes.

     The primary consumers include many kinds of grubs and beetles, ants and other insects. Small rodents such as mice, chipmunks, and squirrels, and larger ones such as porcupines, consume plants for food. Deer eat the grass and browse on the bushes. Aquatic insects, crustaceans, and fishes also eat plants.

     Omnivores such as bears, racoons, and some of the birds eat plant products and also insects, small animals, and fish.

 Secondary consumers are the small carnivores: owls, foxes, and weasels.

    The lynx and the wolves are the large carnivores that prey on the deer and on smaller animals. These form a level of Tertiary consumers.

This system maintains a dynamic balance.  Plants and animals occupy niches in the ecosystem.  Predation, and competition between individuals, keeps populations in check.  A wide variety of plant life provides a foundation for this ecosystem.

     This biome produces about 3500 Kilocalories of plant tissue per square meter per year. As the growing season is less than 120 days per year (about a third of the year) productivity is good when temperatures are high enough. However, animals must burn food every day, so the number of animals is limited to the number that the annual production can support. Animals adapt to winter food scarcity by migration and hibernation.


The Coniferous Forest

An Energy Pyramid in the Coniferous Forest

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© 1998. Elizabeth Anne Viau. All rights reserved. This material may be used by individuals for instructional purposes but not sold. Please inform the author if you use it at eviau@earthlink.net