Unit 6 - Forest Regions
Lesson 4: Climate and Soil of Banff's Montane Forest
In general, temperatures can be about five to seven degrees warmer than the temperatures at higher elevations.
Montane forests in Banff also receive significantly less annual precipitation than do the forests that occur higher up the mountain side. This is because the subalpine and alpine areas receive much more snow during the winter.
Chinook winds are common on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Since that's where Banff is located, these warm winds are common in Banff's montane forest, and snow-free periods are therefore a regular occurrence.
The rate of decomposition and nutrient cycling is low in the montane forest region of Banff National Park.
For this reason, these forests actually require fire in order to release nutrients bound up in the leaves and woody debris on the forest floor.
Surface fires burn fuel on the surface of the forest floor, thereby replenishing the forest soil with nutrients.
Forest fires greatly enrich the fertility of the soil, allowing many species to quickly re-establish themselves.
As we mentioned earlier in the course, the seeds of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) are only released from their cones following a periods of high heat, and the seedlings establish quickly on the exposed soil.
Aspen (Populus Genus) trees will also regenerate vigorously after a fire, sending up sprouts from their roots.