Barcelona Field Studies Centre

Adaptation of Trees

How have temperate coniferous trees adapted to the natural environment?

• Trees are evergreen therefore they are able to photosynthesise whenever temperatures rise above 3ºC, important in spring and even on some sunny winter days. This gives them an advantage over deciduous species that have to use precious energy growing new leaves every spring.

• The conical shape enables trees to shed snow which might break branches.

• Flexible trunks prevent snapping in high winds, common in these regions.

• Needle leaves have a small surface area and are waxy which reduces water lost by transpiration. Both of these adaptations are important as these trees grow in low rainfall areas, often less than 500mm per year.

• Dark forest floor and acid pine needles limit ground vegetation and competition for nutrients.

• Cones protect seeds from extreme winter cold and summer forest fires.

• Resinous bark protects trees from extreme winter cold.

• Wide, spreading roots to:

    collect nutrients from the shallow soil. The soils are thin and most of the nutrients are held within the litter layer;

    provide anchorage against strong winds;

    avoid the subsoil which is frozen for much of the year.