What is Meant by Montane Forest

When people study forests, even in an amateur way, a term that they are likely to encounter is “Montane forest’. If a person doesn’t know what this is in reference to, the term can cause a bit of confusion. The confusion isn’t necessary, because it isn’t difficult to understand what is meant by the term.

Overview of Montane forest

At its most basic, a Montane forest is one that is found on the slopes of mountains. This is often too general, however. Not all forests found on the slopes of mountains qualify as being Montane forests. For instance, in the Cascade and Rocky Mountains, forests found above 4,000 feet are often subalpine forests rather than Montane forests, though in both mountain ranges, since many mountains are taller than 4,000 feet, the forest are usually still on mountain slopes. Likewise, though Montane forests usually begin at an altitude of roughly 1,500 to 2,000 feet, there are exceptions. Still, this is an important kind of forest, wherever it exists.

Trees that typify Montane forests

The types of trees that grow in a Montane forest are also variable, depending on many factors including the area they are found in and the latitude. In North America, the US Park Service states that this kind of forest normally contains yellow cedar, red cedar, Douglas fir, silver fir and hemlock, though not all of these need to exist within the same forest. Still, they often do co-exist. Also, other trees can be found growing there, so the reference is mostly about the trees that dominate the forest. An example can be found at Crater Lake National Park, which has an elevation substantially higher than 4,000 feet and which also contains Ponderosa and lodge pole pines, as well as a few other trees.


Montane forests in North America and in Europe usually have bitter, cold winters, often with heavy snowfall amounts every year. The trees previously mentioned are well suited for withstanding both the cold and the snow. Other plants and wild animals must also be able to survive the conditions, however. This can include species of plants like huckleberries, choke cherry, bear berry and Indian paintbrush. The animals are even more diverse, befitting the sometimes harsh climate. Several species of hawks and owls, bears, jays, grouse, squirrels and snowshoe hares tend to be fairly common. Badgers, martens, foxes and occasionally wolves can also be found in this kind of forest, in the United States and Canada. The temperatures are a defining trait of this kind of forest, which is why the plants and animals usually need to be hardy.

Other Montane forests

Almost any place that has mountainous areas can have Montane forests, though they can differ widely in the plant and animal species found there. There are also Montane forests in South America, Africa and New Guinea, for instance. This is part of the reason that people are sometimes confused by the term.

It isn’t greatly difficult to understand what a Montane forest is, though. Regardless of the plants and animals found in these forests, they normally exist on mountain slopes, below the area where sub-alpine forests take over. Often dense, this kind of forest is normally a great example of the diversity of life that can be found in forests all over the world.