Facts about Taiga
The world's largest land biome
Taiga is a boreal forest consisting mainly of spruce, pine, and larch, and to a small extent, deciduous trees. It is found in the northern parts of Asia, North America and Europe within a cool temperate climate. Most of the coniferous forest zone has permafrost. The harsh conditions prevailing in the taiga make life impossible for many representatives of flora and fauna. Despite this, both plants and animals and even people live there.
1Taiga is a boreal (northern) coniferous forest.
Boreal forests are found throughout northern Europe (the Scandinavian Peninsula and the Kola Peninsula, which together with the Finnish-Karelian Intersea, form the Fennoscandian Peninsula, the northern part of the East European Plain), northern Asia (Siberia, Sakhalin, Kamchatka) and North America (Alaska, Canada).
2The term "taiga" is mostly used for the forests of Eurasia.
American forests are generally referred to as boreal coniferous forests.
3Taiga occupies 11.5% (17 million km2 - 10,5 million square miles) of Earth's land area, second only to deserts and dry scrub (19% of Earth's land area).
Its largest areas are located in Russia and Canada. In North America, it includes most of inland Canada, Alaska, and parts of the northern contiguous United States. In Eurasia, it includes most of Sweden, Finland, much of Russia-from Karelia in the west to the Pacific Ocean (including much of Siberia), much of Norway and Estonia, parts of the Scottish highlands, some coastal areas of Iceland, and areas of northern Kazakhstan, northern Mongolia, and northern Japan (on the island of Hokkaido).
4Taiga is mainly covered by coniferous forests and, to a small extent, by deciduous forests.
Deciduous trees are more common at forest edges, in post-fire areas (wildfires), along river banks and swamps, and in coastal areas where the climate is milder.
5Major tree species, growing season length, and temperatures vary among taiga regions.
6The taiga in its present form has existed for the last 12,000 years, since the beginning of the Holocene epoch.
In the north, the taiga is adjacent through the sparse trees(transition zone) to the tundra (a treeless plant formation in the cold climate of the Arctic zone in the northern hemisphere). On the other hand, the south has deciduous forests or the steppe zone.
7Boreal forests are poorly diversified in terms of species.
The stands are usually single-trunked and composed of a small number of pin tree species such as spruce (Picea), pine (Pinus), fir (Abies), and larch (Larix).
From the deciduous trees, which are rare in the taiga, we should mention alders (Alnus), poplars (Populus), birches (Betula), rowans (Sorbus), willows (Salix). The shrub layer is poorly developed. The well-developed undergrowth consists of shrubs from the heather family (Ericaceae), bryophytes and lichens.
8The taiga has a high primary production - about 800 g of dry matter per m2 per year, combined with a slow decomposition (mineralization) process.
This leads to the accumulation of organic matter in the ground and the production of a thick layer of litter. Needles falling from trees significantly affect the acidification and podzolization of soils.
9In the Asian taiga, two types are distinguished, differing in species composition - dark taiga and light taiga.
Dark taiga occurs mainly in western Siberia (up to the Yenisei River and Lake Baikal). In the north, there are spruce and larch forests with an admixture of Siberian limber. In the middle part, the forests consist mainly of Siberian pine. Finally, in the south, there is a formation called urman, with stand dominated by Siberian spruce, Siberian fir and Siberian pine with an admixture of small-leaved lime.
Light taiga (luminous, fresh) occurs in central and north-eastern Siberia (east of the Yenisei). It consists of Dahurian larch and Siberian spruce with admixtures of various species of willows and dwarf birch.
10Boreal forests grow on poor podzolic soils, characterized by a very acid reaction (pH 3.0-5.5).
The subsoil often contains permafrost, the upper layers of which partially thaw during the summer, forming extensive and boggy swamps. Considerable areas are covered by peat soils.
11After tundra and permanent ice caps, the taiga is the terrestrial biome with the lowest average annual temperatures.
The average annual temperature ranges from -5 to 5 °C (23 °F to 41 °F). In the Siberian taiga, the average temperature of the coldest month ranges from -6 °C to -50 °C (21 °F to -58 °F).
12The growing season, when vegetation in the taiga revives, is usually slightly longer than the climatic definition of summer.
This is because plants of the boreal biome have a lower temperature threshold to induce growth than other plants. Some sources say that 130 days of the growing season is typical for taiga, but this depends on the region. The most extended growing season occurs in smaller areas with oceanic influence; in coastal areas of Scandinavia and Finland, the growing season can last 145-180 days. On the other hand, the shortest occurs in northern regions on the taiga-tundra border and is 50-70 days there.
13Precipitation in the taiga is relatively low throughout the year, typically 200-750 mm, and in some areas, 1000 mm per year.
Moisture comes from rain during the summer months, as well as snow and fog. In the northernmost regions of the taiga, snow can remain for up to 9 months.
14Because the Bering land bridge once connected North America and Asia, many animal and plant species were able to colonize both continents and are found throughout the taiga.
Due to the harsh climate of the taiga, a relatively small variety of animals inhabit it. Canada's boreal forest includes 85 mammal, 130 fish, and about 32,000 insect species. Insects play a crucial role as pollinators, decomposers of dead organic matter or as a link in the food chain - they are food for many breeding birds during the summer months.
15Taiga is a challenging biome for reptiles and amphibians.
Only a few species occur in the boreal forest, including the Striped garter, Siberian salamander, Wood frog, American and Canadian toad, and others. Most of these hibernate underground in winter.
16The taiga is home to many large herbivorous mammals.
These include elk, reindeer, and roe deer, among others. The largest animal in the taiga is the wood bison, found in northern Canada and Alaska and recently imported to far eastern Russia.
The small mammals of the taiga biome include rodents: beaver, squirrel, vole, grey hare and mountain hare. Some larger mammals, such as bears, feed abundantly in summer and hibernate in winter.
The predatory mammals of the taiga must be adapted to travel long distances in search of scattered game. Predators of the taiga include lynx, stoat, weasel, sable, marten, otter, American mink, American black bear, Himalayan bear, Siberian tiger, and others.
17More than 300 species of birds nest in the taiga.
Of this number, only 30 species remain in the taiga for the winter. These are carrion-eating birds or birds of prey, such as golden eagle, buzzard, and raven. There are also seed-eating birds, such as grouse and crossbills.
18Despite harsh conditions, many people live in the taiga biome, not only in small settlements but in cities as well.
Major cities in this biome include Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Yakutsk, Anchorage, Yellowknife, Tromsø, Luleå, and Oulu.
19Boreal forests are estimated to store twice as much chemically pure carbon per unit area as tropical forests.
According to scientists, the North's ecosystem has bound and stored 208 billion tons of chemically pure carbon, including 71 billion tons in boreal forests and 137 billion tons in peatlands. This amount of clean carbon equals the total of all industrial gases emitted globally into the atmosphere in 26 years. Moreover, one hectare of boreal forest sequesters almost twice as much chemical clean carbon as a hectare of forest in the tropics.