There are two real types of coniferous forest, which are the boreal forests that stretch across the far north, and more temperate forests which are found in New Zealand, Chile and western North America. Some of the trees in the temperate coniferous forests of North America can grow to be 75 metres tall and are more than 500 years old.
The boreal coniferous forests stretch in an almost unbroken band across the far north from Siberia, throughout Northern Europe, to Alaska. This coniferous forest covers a distance of 6 million square miles and can be 1,000 miles wide in places. A large proportion of boreal coniferous forest stands within the Arctic Circle, meaning that plants and animals that live there have be well adapted to the bitterly cold winters.
Although life is not as rich in coniferous forests as it is in temperate forests or rainforests, there are a number of species that thrive within them. Coniferous forests are made up of conifer trees which have needle shaped leaves and grow very close to one another. Although conifers are excellent at withstanding the cold, the pine needles are acidic and this is passed into the soil when the pine needles fall to the ground. This means that only plants that can grow in acidic conditions will survive in coniferous forests.
The plants that grow within a habitat affect the herbivores that live there meaning that only herbivores that can survive on plants that are so acidic, can inhabit coniferous forests. Coniferous forests are mainly home to insects, who build their nests in the dense trees. Deer and elk can often be found in coniferous forests as they browse on the berries that grow on the low-laying shrubs. Large predators such as bears and wolves can also be found in coniferous forests where they hunt for prey, such as large herbivores.
Out of all of the forest types, coniferous forests are thought to have been the least affected by humans and deforestation. This is thought to be because the trees that grow within coniferous forests are softwood trees and so are only really used in the production of paper. However, as demand for paper increases around the world, larger areas of coniferous forests are being cut down.