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Open Coniferous Forest

openconiferousClick on each section to find out abut species found in open coniferous forests







Open coniferous forests of ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, and to a lesser extent lodgepole pine, grow adjacent to grasslands as well as on steeper, warm aspect slopes in the dry forest. These open stands and savannahs grow in the East Kootenay, Okanagan, Thompson-Nicola and Cariboo-Chilcotin regions of British Columbia. While summers are hot, the amount of moisture available in the soil is enough to support trees as well as grasses. Adjacent grasslands and forests form a mosaic and give a parkland appearance to the landscape.

The open nature of these forests allows light and warmth to reach the forest floor, where bluebunch wheatgrass, rough fescue, arrow-leaved balsamroot and a variety of other plants grow. Rocky talus and rock outcrop areas, gullies, ponds and lakes occur throughout the forests, adding to the variety of habitats. Many animal species depend on these habitats throughout the year, while others use them during only part of the year.

In the open coniferous forest, winter snowfall is fairly low, allowing Rocky Mountain Elk, White-tailed Deer and Mule Deer to move fairly freely as they browse on snowbrush or saskatoon. Many birds that spend the summer in forests at higher elevations, such as Pine Grosbeaks, migrate down to these forests for the winter. The Rubber Boa is a secretive, constrictor snake that lives in these forests, hibernating under dead wood on the ground or under the litter on the forest floor.

Ponderosa pine trees in particular are very important to the life cycle of many animals. Some birds and mammals, such as Clark’s Nutcracker, Pygmy Nuthatch and Yellow-pine Chipmunk, feast on the large seeds found in ponderosa pine cones. Insects under the flaky bark of the trees are food for the red-listed White-headed Woodpecker. Many species, inlcuding Lewis's Woodpecker and Western Bluebird, use cavities in the trees for nesting, while the Big Brown Bat uses them for maternal colonies of up to 200 young, and for roosting.

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Other communities in cross section

Aspen Stand




Open Grassland

Rocky Talus Slopes/Rock Outcrop

Closed Coniferous Patch



Don Gayton (Ponderosa Pine stand)