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The Montane Forest Ecosystem in Colorado

Updated September 10, 2022
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The Montane Forest Ecosystem in Colorado essay

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The Montane Ecosystem in Colorado is located between 6,000 and 9,000 feet above sea level, right between the foothills and the subalpine life zones. The climate, an area where particular weather patterns remain for a long time, varies with altitude as south-facing slopes are dry and north-facing slopes are wetter. This is because the south-facing slopes receive more sunlight. This ecosystem has short summers whose temperatures range from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and winters whose temperatures can reach below zero degrees Fahrenheit. This ecosystem is home to an abundance of species and they thrive based on the altitude and climate.

A producer is an organism that can make its own food. An example of this is the Ponderosa Pine. This tree can be recognized by its red bark. This dominant tree species can be found in the south-facing slopes. A species is a group of individuals who are similar enough to interbreed. A primary consumer is an organism that feeds on producers and is an herbivore. An example of one is the Abert’s Squirrel. You can identify it by its tasseled ears. Not only do they make the

Ponderosa Pine their habitat, the natural home of an organism, they also feed on it. More specifically their cones. Secondary consumers are organisms that feed on primary consumers. They can either be carnivores or omnivores. An example of this is the coyote. One way you can tell a coyote from a dog and a wolf is the way they run. Coyotes run with their tails down, dogs run with their tails up, and wolves run with their tails straight out. Coyotes feed on the Abert’s Squirrel in addition to birds, snakes, and in the winter, berries. Tertiary consumers feed on secondary consumers. They also can be carnivores or omnivores. An example of a tertiary consumer is the mountain lion.

Mountain Lions have a light tan color to their fur and does not roar like other lions. They make sounds similar to a house cat. They prey on coyotes, bighorn sheep, elk, and moose. A decomposer is an organism that eats organic matter. The Dusky Slug is a decomposer. They vary in different shades of brown. From orange and brown to as dark as chocolate. They eat leaves, stems, and fungi. They do not cause much damage to plants and are not pests to the environment. The Douglas-fir is a producer that grows on the north facing slopes. They are medium to large evergreens. The Mountain Pine Beetle is a primary consumer that feeds on Ponderosa, Douglas-fir, and many other tree species. They are as small as a grain of rice. Despite their size, they are a huge infestation. This is due to more frequent warmer weather as a consequence of climate change.

The Downy Woodpecker is a secondary consumer. They are six inches long with black and white feathers and a red spot on its head. They consume the Mountain Pine Beetle, wasps, moths, and larvae. Bobcats are tertiary consumers. They are brown with black spots and their fur gets grayer in the winter. Their ears have black tufts at the ends. They prey on rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, and birds like woodpeckers. They are also nocturnal. Lastly, the Bolete Mushroom is a decomposer. They are reddish-brown and darkens with age. The cap also flattens with age. The stem bulges out in the middle. They grow around pine, spruce, hemlock, and fir trees. The Aspen Tree is a keystone species. A keystone species is a species that other species depend on to survive. A lot of different types of animals depend on this tree for survival.

For example, insects use it for food and shelter. So do rodents and birds. Elk feed on the bark and beavers use it for dams. Its niche is to provide carbohydrates. The carbohydrates are produced during the growing season and stored in the bark and the roots during the winter. This provides energy for root suckers in the spring. The reason why Aspens produce large amounts of carbohydrates is that they contain an abundance of chlorophyll. All of the plants and animals of this ecosystem contributes to the carrying capacity. Carrying capacity is the number of organisms that can live in a region without affecting the environment in a negative way. The montane ecosystem in Colorado is very diverse.

There are more than 1100 plant communities, 18 species of reptiles, 123 species of mammals, 408 species of birds, and more than 300 species of vertebrates. This is due to the changes of weather based on elevation as more species are located at the southern level of the montane forest. Although there are many factors that benefit the species in this ecosystem, there are also limiting factors. Limiting factors are anything that slows or stops a population from growing. One limiting factor is the altitude. As you increase elevation, there is less oxygen and the number of organisms living up there decreases.

Another limiting factor is the Mountain Pine Beetle. As previously mentioned, there is a huge infestation of them. They are native to the western United States and mainly feed on Ponderosa, Lodgepole, Scotch, Limber, Bristlecone, and Pinyon Pine Trees. They kill the trees by digging holes in them, eventually turning them into tunnels and laying eggs in them. This leads to a deadly fungus that cuts off the lines that bring water and nutrients from the roots to the branches. However, these limiting factors are not the only things that affect the population growth of the species of this ecosystem. There are also many threats that contribute to these limiting factors.

One threat is tree-killing insects. As mentioned previous paragraph, the Mountain Pine Beetle has contributed to the deterioration of forests in the montane ecosystem. One specific species is the Lodgepole Pine. It makes up 8% of Colorado’s forests. 70% of this species have been damaged. The reason why the Mountain Pine Beetle has become such a threat is because of its rapid population growth due to climate change. As warmer temperatures become more frequent, the beetles are able to withstand winter conditions which give them more time to infect trees. This is also unfortunate because as more trees die, the chances of wildfires increase, which contributes to global warming. Another threat is large wildfires.

Wildfires have increased in the Rocky Mountains throughout the decades and wildfire season has extended to two months longer than it used to be. Wildfires are more frequent in the southern slopes in the ponderosa forest than in the northern slopes with the Douglas-fir and Lodgepole Pine forests. These wildfires are the consequence of global warming. Usually, forests regenerate after a wildfire. However, because of warmer, drier weather due to climate change, seedlings that naturally grow in moist forests rather than drier ones, are not growing. After the wildfires that occurred after the year, 2000, ⅓ of them did not recover. Since a large mass of forests are being destroyed and are not being replenished, this may lead to increased global warming as a larger quantity of carbon dioxide is being produced. A third threat is extreme heat and drought.

There has been a doubling in tree mortality recently, even in areas unaffected by wildfires and insects. This is because of the increasing number of trees that are becoming stressed under the extreme heat. An example of this is Aspen mortality in 2002. The drought resulted in a record low in soil moisture. This was the most extreme season of water stress in the past century. Engleman Spruce and Douglas-fir trees have also been affected by the drought. Engleman Spruce morality increased over five years and Douglas-fir mortality increased substantially over eleven years. These two species, in addition to the Lodgepole Pine, are more affected than the Ponderosa Pine because they rely more on the snow that melts in the Spring. However, the drought has been preventing adequate snowfall for the trees to survive. Although these threats produce grave effects on the species of this ecosystem, people are coming up with solutions to prevent any further damage.

There have been many ideas on how to solve the Mountain Pine Beetle outbreak. One suggestion was the use of pesticides. They can be sprayed on standing and fallen trees. This may be effective until the beetles evolve enough to resist the pesticides. Also, there may still be tree mortality until the pesticides start killing a good amount of the beetles. Although this may kill off a mass of Mountain Pine Beetles, this method is expensive in time, effort, and resources. It may even cost between $1 and $10 per tree. Because a lot of methods are really expensive, there have been numerous debates about how to deal with the issue.

One way to reduce wildfires is to present more advertisements or campaigns on television and the Internet. They can bring awareness to the issue on how climate is contributing to the wildfires. Also, they can display tips for people camping so that they do not mistakenly start one. This can reduce the wildfire threat by bringing people’s attention to how serious these wildfires are and so that they can speak up more and expresse their voice to either politics or start their own organizations to deal with this issue. However, you need a lot of people to show their support to make a change and that will take a lot of campaigns, which is really expensive. Lastly, cloud seeding can reduce the effects of drought. Cloud-seeding is a method of making it snow or rain by releasing silver iodide into the clouds. This can increase moisture in the soil and reduce heat stress in the forests.

Thus, lowering temperatures. This can decrease the chance of wildfires and even hinder the growth of the Mountain Pine Beetle population. If successful, this may even end the drought. Although the benefits may seem great, cloud seeding is still new technology so, it has not been proven effective. Also, silver iodide is a harmful chemical and this is a very expensive procedure. These methods of reducing the threats to the montane ecosystem will have great benefits if proven effective but because they are new ideas, there are a lot of debates about their capabilities to reduce the threats.

The Montane Forest Ecosystem in Colorado essay

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The Montane Forest Ecosystem in Colorado. (2021, Jan 18). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-montane-forest-ecosystem-in-colorado/

FAQ

What animals live in the montane ecosystem?
The few common animals that are found in montane forests are Kashmir stag, snow leopard, spotted deer, jackrabbit, wild sheep, Tibetan antelope, yak, shaggy horn wild ibex, rare red panda , etc. Montane forests are located between the submontane zone and the subalpine zone.
What are the main features of montane forest?
What are the characteristics of montane forests? At the foothills of the Himalayas deciduous forests are found. At an altitude of 1000m to 2000m, they are the moist temperate forests. These forests contain mixed species of broad-leafed evergreen and conifers trees.
Where are montane ecosystems located?
Montane ecosystems are found on the slopes of mountains . The alpine climate in these regions strongly affects the ecosystem because temperatures fall as elevation increases, causing the ecosystem to stratify.
Where are montane forests in Colorado?
The montane vegetation zone is found in the Rockies at elevations ranging from 8,000 to 10,000 feet .
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