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
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
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.
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
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
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© 1998. Elizabeth Anne
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