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Coniferous Forests of Softwood Trees: Between 50°N and 70°N coniferous forests are found. Such forests are also found in the Himalayan Kashmir areas, at an altitude of 1525-2135 meters. The coniferous forest is also known as 'Taiga' in Europe. The trees grow well on lands lying in higher middle latitudes where summers are moist with temperature averages not much more than 15°C-the winters are so cold that the soil remains covered with snow for many months. In the northern parts of the coniferous forest region the trees become dwarfed. On the margins of the northern continents broad belts of coniferous forests extend south for considerable distances. The trees are straight and have needle-like leaves with conical shape. The trees are all soft-wood trees which are greatly demanded for various industrial uses-in the making of wood pulp, paper, masts of ships, artificial silk and plywood, etc. The soil is usually sandy and dry. The pines thrive best in areas with 125 cm or more rainfall per year due to porosity of the sandy soil and high rate of evaporation in USA. Douglas fir, white pines, redwood, western yellow pine grow well on the Coast Ranges, Sierra Nevada, Cascades and Rockies-where the climate is moist and mild.
Only a few conifers such as the larch, are deciduous. The needles limit transpiration and thus enable conifers to grow in drier areas, due to the fact that the trees can make the maximum use of a relatively short growing period.
Coniferous forests are only moderately dense and they become appreciably thinner in colder or drier regions. The most dense, luxuriant coniferous forests are found in western North America.
The major regions in USA are (a) Western North America The most, maritime climate of northern California, Washington, Oregon in the USA and Canada give rise to a very luxuriant coniferous forest. (b) Central and Eastern North America: The drier, more continental climate and thin soils of the Laurentian Shield support a scattered type of coniferous forest. Valuable species such as white pine and red spruce are available. The type extends around the Great Lakes and into the Appalachian mountains. (c) Southern USA: The dry sandy soils of many parts of American south support a coniferous rather than a deciduous tree cover despite the warm, moist climate. Species like long leaf, and slash pines are found from Virginia to Texas.
(d) Northern Europe The Scandinavian countries Norway, Sweden and Finland as well as adjacent areas of northern Russia, support a valuable coniferous forest, the chief trees of which are the Scots Pines, Norwegian pines etc. Many upland areas farther South, such as Northern Britain, the German and central European uplands and even parts of Italy also support coniferous forests. (e) Asiatic Russia: Much of the Northern Siberia extending in a broad belt from the Urals to the Pacific coast, is forested with conifers. The forests are thinner on their Northern and Southern margins, where the climate is either too cold or too dry and in many areas, birch trees thrive better than conifers. (f) Southern Continents : Two major areas of South America have coniferous forest. The western coast land of Southern Chile and the southern part of the Brazilian Plateau. The North Island of New Zealand is noted for its Kauri Pines. South Africa and Australia have only small areas of natural coniferous forests and these are only of local importance.
More than 80 per cent of the coniferous forests of the world or about 1024 million hectares grow between 25° and 65° north latitude and hence, are relatively accessible to thickly populated parts of the world. More than 50 per cent of the world's woods supply and 67 per cent of the timber cut for lumber come from the conifers forests of softwood trees.
World total of conifers amount to 1280 million hectares. The maximum concentration of conifers can be found in Russia. She has about 45.3 per cent of world's total conifers. 580 million hectares of land are under conifers in Russia. North America has 463 million hectares of conifers or about 36.8 per cent of world's total conifers. Asia has 120 million hectares of conifers or about 9.3 per cent of world's total Europe has 79 million hectares of conifers or 6.2 per cent of world's total conifers mostly in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Latin America has only 21 per cent of world's total conifers. Africa and Pacific Area have only 0.2 per cent 0.7 per cent respectively.
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