12 Temperate Rainforests Around the World

A small stream cascades over moss-covered rocks in a forest of ferns
The cold, rugged rainforest that carpets New Zealand's Fiordland region is one of the wettest places on the planet.

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Temperate rainforests, like their tropical counterparts, are damp, dense forests that teem with life. These forests are found in isolated pockets around the world, on every continent except for Antarctica.

What Are Temperate Rainforests?

Temperate rainforests are forests in the mid-latitudes that are cool and wet due to marine influence and heavy rainfall. They have dense canopy cover and an understory of mosses and lichens.

Most temperate rainforests are close to large bodies of water and tall mountain ranges. They are most common in coastal areas, though inland mountain ranges can support temperate rainforests in some cases, due to the unique weather patterns created by large changes in elevation.

Though some temperate rainforests are expansive, most are relatively small, due partly to the relative scarcity of temperate areas that receive heavy rainfall, and partly to the effects of agriculture and development. These forests often produce large, tall trees, and have therefore been subjected to widespread logging campaigns throughout the centuries.

Today, temperate rainforests are recognized for their ecological importance, and most are protected as national parks or reserves. They serve as important habitats for a wide variety of native plants and animals, including endangered species.

Here are 12 examples of pristine temperate rainforests found across the world.

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Pacific Coast Range

A dense forest landscape of ferns and trees with trunks covered with moss
Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park, Washington.

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Stretching along the west coast of North America from northern California to Alaska, the forests found along the Pacific Coast Range are the largest expanse of temperate rainforest in the world. In California, the forests are home to the coast redwood, the world's tallest trees. Further north, coniferous species like sitka spruce, western red cedar, and western hemlock dominate the landscape. Across the region, the forest understory is damp and densely vegetated by ferns, mosses, and broadleaf trees. The Pacific rainforests are so productive that even dead trees contribute to the landscape. Fungi and seedlings can sprout directly from fallen logs known as "nurse logs" that harbor nutrients and rich soil as they decompose.

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Taiheiyo Evergreen Forests

A dense forest of small trees, with the forest floor covered by moss and tree roots

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The Taiheiyo Evergreen Forests, found in southern Japan, are temperate rainforests made up of evergreen broadleaf trees. Due to Japan's maritime climate, the forests can receive more than 100 inches of rain every year. Japanese cedar and Japanese stone oak are the dominant tree species, while moso bamboo and a wide diversity of mosses and lichens comprise the understory. Japan was not affected by glaciation during the last ice age, and the temperate rainforests here serve as refugia—isolated places where once-dominant species still thrive—for species that succumbed to glacial movement in other landscapes.

The extent of the Taiheiyo forests has been reduced due to development and agriculture. Today, 17% of the remaining forest is protected by national parks and other reserves.

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Appalachian Temperate Rainforest

Sunlight streams into a forest landscape with a waterfall and moss-covered rocks

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Stretching from northern Georgia to western North Carolina, the Appalachian temperate rainforest is perched atop one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. Warm air from the Gulf of Mexico leads to precipitation when it reaches the mountainous landscape, and the Appalachian forests average more than 60 inches of rainfall per year. Red spruce and Fraser fir are the dominant tree species, with an understory of many broadleaf trees, shrubs, mosses, and fungi. Much of the forest is protected or public land. The most-visited national park in the United States, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, protects 520,000 acres of the forest.

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Atlantic Oakwood Forest

A large gnarled tree in a field of boulders, all covered by moss

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The Atlantic Oakwood Forest covers the wettest parts of the United Kingdom, including parts of Ireland and Scotland. As the name suggests, a species of oak tree called sessile oak dominates the landscape. Unlike other temperate forests, these forests tend to have an open understory of grasses and heather, though mosses, lichens, and liverworts are also common. Much of the historical range of the forest has given to agriculture and other development, though that has changed in recent decades. Today, much of the forest is protected, and land managers are removing invasive conifers planted for timber to allow native species to reclaim the landscape.

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Valdivian Temperate Rainforest

A dense forest with small waterfalls enveloped by fog

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The Valdivian temperate rainforest is found on the west coast of Chile and Argentina, on the wet, western slopes of the Andes mountain range. After the Pacific rainforests in North America, it's the second-largest temperate rainforest in the world. Isolated by the coastline to the west, the imposing peaks of the Andes to the east, and the Atacama Desert to the north, the region functions as an inland island of sorts that supports a number of plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world. Uniquely, the forest is dominated not by conifers, but by evergreen flowering trees like tineo and tiaca, which are native to Chile and little known outside the region.

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Fiordland and Westland Temperate Rainforests

A stream flows through a dense, damp forest under a layer of fog

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The South Island of New Zealand is home to two connected temperate forests known respectively as the Fiordland and Westland forests. Both are on the west coast of the island, where mountain topography creates a rain shadow effect. Some parts of the region see as much as 433 inches of precipitation annually. The Westland forest, which is further north, is bordered by the Southern Alps, the tallest mountains in New Zealand. In contrast, Fiordland has smaller mountains, but even more punishing terrain. As the name implies, it's a landscape of isolated fjords and heavily forested peaks, with almost no road access.

The forests in Westland are dominated by native species like rata and kamahi, while several species of beech are more prevalent in the colder climate of Fiordland. Both areas are important ecosystems for native species like kiwi birds, and much of the landscape is protected by national park designation.

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Baekdu Mountain Range

A forested valley beneath tall rocky cliffs and a blue sky

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The Baekdu Mountain Range, stretching across the spine of the Korean Peninsula, is carpeted by a temperate rainforest of conifer and broadleaf trees. The most common trees include red pine, Japanese Maple, and sawtooth oak. At lower elevations, much of the forest is evergreen, but at higher elevations trees will drop their leaves in the fall.

The forest spans South Korea, North Korea, as well as a corner of China near the North Korean border. In South Korea, it also covers many islands off the southern coast of the peninsula. With far less development than mainland Korea, these islands are some of the best examples of the forest in an undisturbed state.

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Fragas do Eume

A stream flows over boulders in a forest of ferns and mossy trees

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Situated in northwestern Spain, the Fragas do Eume is a small stretch of temperate rainforest that straddles the Eume River. European oak is the dominant species, though alder, chestnut, birch, and ash trees thrive as well. The dense forest canopy, combined with its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, creates a dark, humid environment on the forest floor that supports 20 fern species and about 200 lichen species. The forest is preserved as a 22,000-acre natural park.

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Taiwan Mountain Rainforests

Mountains and cliffs covered with green forests and obscured by fog

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Despite its small size, the island nation of Taiwan supports a diverse forest ecosystem due to its mountainous terrain. At low elevations, the forests are warm and wet and considered a subtropical region. The mountain forests, however, are an example of temperate rainforest, dominated by Taiwan cypress, hemlock, and camphorwood. One of the best examples of Taiwan's old-growth temperate forest is protected in the Yushan National Park. The park also encompasses Yu Shan (also known as Jade Mountain), the tallest peak in Taiwan and the fourth-tallest mountain on any island in the world. Though the park only covers 3% of Taiwan by area, more than half of the native plant species in the country can be found there.

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Eastern Australian Temperate Forest

A dense forest of giant ferns and trees with scale-patterned bark

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While Australia is famously known for its extensive desert, the east coast of the country is home to a lush, green temperate rainforest that stretches south from New South Wales to the island of Tasmania. Rainforests cover just 2.7% of Australia's landmass, but provide habitat for 60% of the country's plant species and 40% of its bird species.

Though most of Australia's wooded areas are dominated by eucalyptus, a genus of more than 700 tree species native to Australia, the temperate rainforests have a different composition. Trees like coachwood, Antarctic birch, and Huon pine are more prevalent. In total, 63% of the country's rainforests are protected as reserves by the government.

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Knysna-Amatole Rainforests

A bridge spans a river surrounded by tree-covered hills and cliffs

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Despite its massive size, the continent of Africa has only two enclaves of temperate rainforest—the Knysna and Amatole forests in South Africa. Though they are often referred to in conjunction, the two are distinct forests. The Knysna extends along the the southern coast, while the Amatole is further inland on the slopes of the Amatole mountain range. The forests receive about 20 to 60 inches of rainfall per year, and are often cloaked in fog that rolls in from the Indian Ocean. The forest canopy is not dominated by one species, but a variety of trees including ironwood, alder, and, and Cape beech. Though the forests support a range of endemic species, logging and other development have largely caused the disappearance of large mammal species, like elephants and buffalo.

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Caspian Hyrcanian Mixed Forests

A village on a hillside in a forested, mountainous landscape

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The Caspian Hyrcanian Mixed Forest, found along the southern shore of the Caspian Sea in Iran and Azerbaijan, stands out as one of the only forests in the Middle East. Hemmed in by the sea and the Alborz Mountains, the tallest mountain range in the region, the forest is the recipient of moist air from the sea that turns to rain when it hits the high peaks. Alder, oak, and beech trees form the forest canopy. Notably, the Caspian Hyrcanian is entirely without conifers, though some similar evergreen species such as juniper and cypress are present. The forest serves as vital habitat for the Persian leopard, a subspecies of leopard that is considered endangered.