Land Biomes: Taigas

Boreal Forests

Boreal Forest (Taiga)
Boreal forest (Taiga) near Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada. Credit: John E Marriott/All Canada Photos/Getty Images

Biomes are the world's major habitats. These habitats are identified by the vegetation and animals that populate them. The location of each biome is determined by the regional climate.

Taigas

Taigas, also called boreal forests or coniferous forests, are forests of dense evergreen trees that extend across North America, Europe, and Asia. They are the world's largest land biome. Covering much of the globe, these forests play a significant role in the nutrient cycle of carbon by removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and using it to generate organic molecules through photosynthesis.

Carbon compounds circulate in the atmosphere and influence global climates.

Climate

The climate in the taiga biome is extremely cold. Taiga winters are long and harsh with temperatures averaging below freezing. The summers are short and cool with temperatures ranging between 20-70 degrees Fahrenheit. The annual precipitation is usually between 15-30 inches, mostly in the form of snow. Because the water remains frozen and unusable to plants for most of the year, taigas are considered to be dry regions.

Location

Some locations of taigas include:

  • Alaska
  • Central Canada
  • Europe
  • Northern Asia - Siberia

Vegetation

Due to cold temperatures and slow organic decomposition, taigas have thin, acidic soil. Coniferous, needle-leaf trees abound in the taiga. These include pine, fir, and spruce trees, which are also popular choices for Christmas trees. Other species of trees include the deciduous beech, willow, poplar and adler trees.

Taiga trees are well suited for their environment. Their cone-like shape allows snow to fall off more easily and prevents branches from breaking under the weight of the ice. The shape of the leaves of the needle-leaf conifers and their waxy coating helps to prevent water loss.

Wildlife

Few species of animals live in the taiga biome due to the extremely cold conditions.

The taiga is home to various seed eating animals like finches, sparrows, squirrels and jays. Large herbivore mammals including elk, caribou, moose, musk ox, and deer can also be found in taigas. Other taiga animals include hares, beavers, lemmings, minks, ermines, geese, wolverines, wolves, grizzly bears and various insects. Insects play an important role in the food chain in this biome as they act as decomposers and are prey for other animals, especially birds.

To escape the harsh conditions of winter, many animals like squirrels and hares burrow underground for shelter and warmth. Other animals, including reptiles and grizzly bears, hibernate through the winter. Still other animals like elk, moose, and birds migrate to warmer regions during winter.

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