There are two types of coniferous forests: the boreal forest also referred to as the taiga and the temperate coniferous forest. The taiga has a cold and harsh climate, while temperate coniferous forests are more moderate in temperature, with cold winters and warm summers. MONQ has used the trees in these different types of forests as inspiration for the terpene-packed Forest blend.
If you’ve spent your whole life in the continental United States, you haven’t experienced a true boreal forest. The coniferous forests that dominate the Pacific Northwest and other states in Western America are all temperate forests.
Temperate coniferous forests are defined by cone-bearing trees in temperate areas that receive a significant amount of rainfall. These trees stay green year-round and have needle-like leaves. This differs from temperate deciduous forests, which are dominated by broad-leafed trees that shed their leaves in the winter. Some forests that are known as “mixed forests" include a combination of evergreen and deciduous trees.
Temperate coniferous forests can be found on five different continents: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. In the United States, they can be found all over the Mountain West and Pacific Northwest, in states from Utah to Washington. They can even be found as far south as Arizona.
Most temperate coniferous forests are along the coastal region of Western America, stretching up into Canada where they begin to turn into boreal forests. While boreal forests are located between 50 and 60 degrees N, temperate coniferous forests lie slightly more to the south. 1
As opposed to other biomes, temperate coniferous forests often have four distinct seasons. The average annual temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter temperatures can drop far below 0, while summers tend to be very warm and humid.
These types of forests thrive where there is a lot of precipitation, often between 12 and 36 inches of a year. Some coniferous forests experience over 70 inches of precipitation in a year. Northern forests get more precipitation in the form of snow, while those in more southern locations get more rain. 2
While biomes such as the rainforest have a handful of different layers, coniferous forests are simpler. They consist of two layers: the canopy and the understory. The canopy includes the tall, fully-grown trees that tower over the rest.
The understory includes smaller trees and shrubs that have not reached full maturity. In most regions, such as coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest, the forest floor is covered in moss, lichen, ferns, and mushrooms.
Compared with other biomes, there is not a lot of diversity in plant species in coniferous forests. The dominant type of tree here is coniferous, including cypress, cedar, juniper, fir, redwood, or pine. This biome is known for supporting trees of massive sizes, such as the coastal redwood, Douglas fir, and Sitka spruce. 3
Each needle of an evergreen tree has a waxy coating that helps keeps moisture from escaping. Because evergreens don’t shed their needles at the coming of winter, they need to keep these needles as long as possible. The needles contain a unique mixture of terpenes and tannins that make them unappealing to herbivores. When needles do end up dropping, they make the soil more acidic and nutrient-limited.
The high concentration of coniferous trees means that the soil is too acidic to support a wide diversity of plant life. The more needles are dropped, the fewer nutrients there are in the soil, and the more conifers continue to take over the landscape. 4
Many animals call the temperate coniferous forest home, although some will hibernate or migrate when the cooler winter months arrive. During the warmer months, these forests are filled with an abundance of insects, birds, and mammals. Squirrels, elk, moose, porcupines, deer, grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, and lynx can all be found.
Benefits of the Temperate Coniferous Forest
The temperate coniferous forest has the benefit of all four seasons, which makes it much more accessible to the everyday person than the boreal forest. While most people won’t make it to the taiga of Russia, many already live near a temperate coniferous forest. Taking some time to visit your nearest forest can do wonders for your health, both emotional and physical.
Just one example of a beneficial coniferous tree is the Douglas fir. This tree is native to western North America and has been used historically to treat a wide variety of ailments, such as the common cold, headaches, rheumatism, stomach issues, respiratory problems, and discomfort.
The resin is highly antiseptic and was used to treat minor wounds. An infusion of the bark relieved digestive troubles, while an infusion of the shoots was used to remedy kidney or bladder issues.
The essential oil made from the needles of the Douglas fir tree can be used both aromatically and topically. It is commonly used to heal minor wounds, promote feelings of peace, improve the appearance of skin, ease sore muscles, and even disinfect your home. If you are feeling ambitious, you can take a stroll through coniferous forest and harvest small amounts of resin or needles to infuse into oil and make a healing salve.
Spending Time in Nature
For those who aren’t up to crafting their own herbal medicines, simply taking a stroll through a coniferous forest also has its benefits. The act of forest bathing is linked to improved mood, lower levels of stress and anxiety, higher levels of energy, and a general improvement in life outlook.
One study found that a simple 20-minute forest therapy session reduced cortisol levels by as much as 13 percent. Spending time in nature has also been shown to improve creativity and mental performance.
You don’t need to be athletic or outdoorsy to benefit from time spent in a coniferous forest. You simply need to appreciate your surroundings. Breathe in the fresh forest air, listen to the birds chirping, and see all of the beauty around you. The beneficial terpenes released by coniferous trees can help release feelings of stress and leave you feeling more at peace.
If you don’t live near a coniferous forest, the Mountain, Forest, and Ocean blends can help make you feel like you're there until you find the time to make the beneficial trip into the actual forest. Breathing in these powerful terpenes can mimic the fresh forest air and bring you a moment of peace.
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