Everyone knows that forests contain trees, but each forest is unique in it's own way, and every forest has an intricate story to tell. The forest type is dependent on many factors, including climate, topographical conditions, geographical location, and soil type. Forests may contain just one or two species of trees in large stands, or mix hundreds of different species together! Along with the trees comes various other species of plants and animals that are all interconnected in the forest ecosystem. In Grand Teton National Park, there are a variety of forest types, containing different tree species as well as associated wildlife. Some trees, such as the whitebark and limber pines, sub-alpine fir, and engelmann spruce can survive the cold windy slopes and alpine zone high up in the Tetons to around 10,000 feet.
Other evergreens, like the lodgepole pine, douglas fir, and blue spruce, are more commonly found on the valley floor, while the aspens, cottonwoods, alders, and willows prefer the moist soils found along the rivers and lakeshores. Grand Teton forests generally contain two or three different types of trees growing together in a specific habitat type. These forests merge into one another in zones called ecotones, which creates edge habitat for various species of wildlife. Some animals, like the red squirrel, pine marten, and black bear spend most of their time in the forests. Others, such as moose, elk, and wolves, seek the forest for shade and shelter during the day and move out to the sagebrush or meadows to feed in the early mornings and evenings. Forests are a very important part of the Grand Teton ecosystem. They stabilize the soil, create homes and food for wildlife, provide nutrients and carbon dioxide to the ecosystem, and create beauty and enjoyment for us all.