What And Where Are The Taiga Forests?

By Serguei Shcheglov on April 25 2017 in Environment

Mixed taiga forests in Northern Europe under the cover of snow.
Mixed taiga forests in Northern Europe under the cover of snow.

5. Where Is The Taiga Found?

Taiga is an area of coniferous forests of the northern temperate zones, created by boreal species of spruce, fir, larch, pine, cedar with a small admixture of hardwoods. Taiga is located in the northern part of the temperate zone, where the average temperature in July is around 50o to 55° Fahrenheit, with the summer season being very short, while winters are quite cold with steady snow cover. Taiga term is also referred to one of the geographical areas of the northern temperate zone. Taiga forests belong to vast expanses of northern Eurasia and North America, covers a large area in the mountains of Northern Europe, the Japanese islands and the Pacific coast of North America. The continental climate provides taiga extensions far to the north, such as on the Taymyr Peninsula north of 72° Northern latitude. In conditions of the oceanic climate, meanwhile, the taiga is located as far south as 42° Northern latitude, roughly the same as the island of Honshu, Japan.

By zonal principles, the taiga is divided into northern, central, and southern taiga regions. The dark coniferous forest is the most common type of taiga. Under its canopy taiga soil is being formed, covered with moss, lichens or rot litter of fallen needles. According to the vegetation composition, we can distinguish the dark coniferous (spruce, fir, pine and Siberian cedar) and the light coniferous taiga (forest pine, larch, some American species of pine). Timbers form the pure stands (spruce forests, larch forests) and the mixed stands (spruce-fir forest). There are also shrubs such as juniper, honeysuckle, currant, willow, blueberries, cranberries. As for herbs, the prevail sorrel, wintergreen, ferns could be found. These herbs accompany many of the dark taigas in Eurasia and North America. In addition to the dark coniferous forests in the southern Europe taiga strip the oak, linden, and maple are seen, while alders could make an occasional appearance. In the southern regions, especially in the mountains and near the ocean coasts, taiga vegetation is much richer in composition. In Northern Europe (specifically in Finland, Sweden, Norway the taiga's spruce forests are influenced by sub-Atlantic climate.

4. Historical Role

The Canadian boreal region is a forest belt with a width of more than 630 miles and about 2,520 miles in length. It runs from the eastern part of the Newfoundland province and Labrador to the border between the northern Yukon and the U.S. state of Alaska. In the 19th Century, the taiga served as a supplier of fur-bearing animals and a source of industrial wood. The felling of taiga areas made it possible to expand farmland. Since the beginning of the 20th Century the taiga tree cover experiencing felling for agriculture was put under state control. Today, in addition to the commercial needs, the ecotourism growing rapidly in all climatic zones of taiga.

3. Modern Significance

Today, in addition to meeting the commercial needs of the forestry industry, the ecotourism sector is growing rapidly across all climatic zones of the taiga. Because of their abilities to live and grow in cold temperatures, the taiga has accumulated relevant biodiversity and flora suited to it, the latter of which plays a crucial role confronting the threat of global warming. This is because the taiga is in and of itself a maintaining force capable of sustaining and balancing global temperatures to some degree, as well as providing a source of oxygen formation for the entire planet. From April to September is an active release period of oxygen from over the surface of the taiga zone, which is then carried by winds across the planet.

2. Habitat and Biodiversity

Significant tracts of taiga occupy the North Atlantic Canadian provinces, dominated by black and blue-gray spruces, as well as Canadian larches. The Canadian mountainous taiga looms large in the Appalachians where, in addition to black spruce, the red spruce and American species of firs are common. In the southwestern part, a large number of genus poplar trees grows. In the east, you can find sugar maple, hemlock, and oak. Canada's Prince Edward Island is rich in resinous pine, red and black spruce, which grows mixed with maple and yellow birch. In Russia, almost one-third of the territory belongs to the taiga zone. In the mountains, large taiga areas are concentrated in Siberia and the Far East in predominantly continental climate. On each of the Northern Hemisphere's continents the taiga forms the northern border of the forest line. In Europe, on the border with tundra in Western Siberia the fir and larch spruce occurs, and in Eastern Siberia is found the Daurian larch. In North America, the northern boundary of the forest formed by black spruce and Canadian larch. In the taiga, the fauna is poorer than that of the deciduous forests. The widespread species of taiga inhabiting other climatic areas too include the wolf, fox, otter, weasel, ermine, European hedgehog, hare, the forest and field mouse, marten, black polecat, mink, deer, roe deer. The largest predator is a brown bear. In the lowland taiga of North America, such species that are typical include American hares, Pennsylvania voles, American sables, martens, Canadian lynxes, and those of the same types as in Eurasia, including the moose and Arctic shrew. Among the birds which are well-known representatives of the taiga are wood grouses, hazel grouses, nutcrackers, three-toed woodpeckers, crossbills, boreal owls, and waxwings.

1. Environmental Threats and Territorial Disputes

Frequent wildfires over the last two years, especially the ones of May of 2016 in Canada, are clear indicators of the impact of warming on the taiga, which in its turn leads to changes in the fauna, such as the increase in number of some species, and in reduction in others, as well as the emergence of taiga species before uncommon in here, such as black grouse, common hamster. Reducing the taiga belt in the north by 5% would lead human society to the need to look for a large areas of forests’ growth and development in other climatic areas, or to start breeding new species of algae in order to maintain the amount of oxygen on Earth in the volumes of the first decade of the 21st Century.

More in Environment