2 March 2024

Cold forests are a type of ecosystem found in regions with cold and humid climates, in which coniferous trees predominate. In addition, they are important for their biological diversity and their crucial role in regulating climate, water and air quality. In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about cold forests, from the concept, characteristics, to the geographical location. So get ready to enter this fascinating forest world.

cold forest definition

It is a type of temperate forest found in mountainous areas or high altitudes, where the temperature is generally lower than in other areas. These are usually composed of tree and shrub species that have evolved to tolerate low temperature conditions, as well as to resist strong winds and snow.

In general, this is considered to be any forest located in very high places, above the tree line, where temperatures are lower and the most rigorous climatic conditions. In these areas, it is common to find cold-resistant tree and plant species, also adapted to the lack of water and nutrients.

These forests are found in different parts of the world, from the montane regions of the tropics to the subarctic and alpine zones. Over there, biological diversity is generally highsince plant and animal species have developed unique adaptations to survive in extreme conditions.

Another point to mention is that they are important for the biodiversity conservation, since they are habitats for endemic and rare species. In addition, they are an important source of natural resources for local communities, which use them to obtain wood, firewood, fruits and other products.

However, wildfires have occurred that can have devastating effects on cold forests. As the climate becomes hotter and drier due to climate change, forest fires become more frequent and more intense in many regions of the world.

Characteristics of a cold forest

It is an ecosystem that is characterized by low temperatures during a large part of the year and high humidity. These forests are usually found at high altitudes or in regions near the poles, and are adapted for survive in extreme weather conditions. In general, trees and vegetation are small in size and have small, thick leaves, which allows them to conserve water and resist the cold. In addition, they are often home to a wide variety of wildlife, including animals adapted to cold weather such as polar bears, wolves, reindeer, and arctic foxes.


The fauna found in this environment is diverse and is adapted to the climatic or environmental conditions of the area. Among some of the species that are a key component in this environment we have:

  1. Mammals: Some of the more common mammals include moose, deer, bears, wolves, foxes, cougars, bobcats, and squirrels. These animals have thick fur and often change their color in different seasons for camouflage and survival.
  2. Birds: There are usually a large number of these, some common species include the bald eagle, owl, golden eagle, hummingbird, woodpecker and magpie.
  3. Reptiles and amphibians: They are not as common as mammals and birds, but they can still be found. Some species include the tree frog, salamander, rattlesnake, and lizard.
  4. Insects: They are an important part of the cold forest ecosystem, as they are a food source for many animals. Common insects include butterflies, ants, bees, flies, and mosquitoes.
  5. Fish: The rivers and lakes that run through the cold forests are often populated by a variety of fish species, such as trout, salmon, and pike.


Cold forests, also known as temperate forests or coniferous and oak forests, are characterized by having vegetation adapted to cold and humid climates. Some of the common characteristics of its flora are:

  1. Thick, leathery leaves: The leaves of plants in a cold forest are often thick and leathery to prevent water loss and ward off the cold.
  2. conifers: They are common trees in cold forests as they can survive cold temperatures and snowfall. Also a coniferous tree has needles instead of leaves, which reduces water loss.
  3. Deciduous trees: Some deciduous trees can also grow in cool forests, such as maples, oaks, and birch. These trees lose their leaves in winter to reduce water loss.
  4. Shade resistant plants: In a cool forest, sunlight can be limited, so the plants that grow there must be shade hardy.
  5. Plants with fruits and berries: Plants that produce fruits and berries are common, as they can provide a food source for animals that live in the forest.
  6. Mosses and lichens: Mosses and lichens are common plants too. They manage to grow in humid and shady places, covering large areas of rocks and tree trunks.


It is characterized by having low temperatures throughout the year, with an average temperature that ranges from 0°C to 10°C. As for the rains, these are abundant and are distributed evenly throughout the twelve months, with an annual average that goes from 500 to 1500 mm. This type of climate, according to the Köppen classification, is called subpolar or cold.

They are generally located at high latitude or high altitude areas, which have low temperatures due to distance from the equator or altitude. Furthermore, the influence of cold winds coming from the poles it also contributes to the low temperature of these forests.

In a cold forest the humidity is quite high, which causes plants such as mosses, lichens and ferns to grow in abundance. These cover much of the soil and help form a thick humus layer, which in turn feeds the trees and other living things that live there. Also, it is possible to be foggy, especially early in the morning or on days with high humidity.

Where are cold forests found?

They can be found in regions with cold or cool temperatures, generally with an annual average of between -5°C and 18°C. Those areas may have subarctic, subalpine, or cool temperate climatedepending on latitude and altitude.

In the northern hemisphere, cold forests are found in places like northern Europe and Asia, including Russia, Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and some areas of the United States, such as the northeast of the country. In those regions, cool forests are dominated by conifers such as spruce, pine, and white spruce, although they may also include deciduous trees such as birch, maple, and aspen.

In South America, are found in the Andes mountains, from Colombia to Argentina, and in some places in Patagonia. And they can include species such as the coigüe, the oak and the lenga.

While, in New Zealand, they are located in the South Island and are mainly composed of conifers such as mountain pine, Canada cedar and Douglas fir.

What color is the coniferous forest?

Temperate coniferous forest can have different shades of green, depending on the species of trees and the season of the year. These are made up primarily of evergreen trees, such as pine, fir, evergreen, and cedar, which keep their green leaves year-round. Among the colors that can be found we have:

  • Green: It is the most common color in coniferous forests since it is the natural color of the foliage of these species. In general, the color is a cool, dark green, with variations in intensity depending on sunlight and weather conditions. In some cases, it can vary in hue, for example, some fir trees have a dark green color and others a lighter shade.
  • Blue-green: Some coniferous species, such as blue spruce, have a shade of bluish-green. This color is more common in trees found in humid or cold areas.
  • Reddish-brown: In the fall, some coniferous trees may change color, turning brown, yellow, or reddish before losing their leaves. This color change is due to the presence of different pigments in the leaves.
  • Grayish: In some cases, the foliage of conifers can have a grayish or silvery hue. This color is more common in those found in dry areas or at high altitudes.

Therefore, it is important to note that the colors may vary depending on the geographical location, the species of tree and the time of year in which the coniferous forest is observed.

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