Have you ever come across the word taiga and wondered what it is? Never? Really? Well, you just did, right now, when you read the first sentence! Jokes apart, the geographic term taiga is used to refer to a coniferous biome which includes most boreal forests that are habitat to a lot of animal and plant species peculiar to such an ecosystem. There are two major categories of taiga biome on Earth and such a classification is based upon the geographic situation (which is responsible for the certain differences in environment) of both types of taiga.
These two types of taiga are the tropical-subtropical coniferous forests (spanning across the Indomalaya Ecozone of Asia, The Neotropical regions of central and southern America and the Nearctic tropical regions that include Mexico, United States and Bermuda) and the temperate coniferous forests (which cover the Vladivian temperate rain forests, the rain forests of Tasmania and New Zealand, a good part of northwestern Europe, Iceland, North America and Norway and also spans across southern Japan, eastern Turkish regions along the Black Caspian Sea, northern Iran and Georgia). Let's take a closer look at the coniferous biome to find out interesting facts about it.
Coniferous Forest Biome Climate
Second to the tundra, the taiga biome climate is characterized by the lowest annual temperature. The coniferous biome forests located in the northern hemisphere, especially the ones in Russia and Canada, tend to be colder than the temperate coniferous forests of New Zealand, Tasmania, Mexico and Bermuda. Although the subarctic taiga has a climate that changes vastly between seasons, the winter and cold are the most dominant elements of the climate of this region.
The summers are about 1-3 months long and the average temperature tends to hover around 10°C. The winter temperature can go as low as -54 °C although the average temperature tends to hover between -10 °C and -5 °C. The temperate coniferous rain forests tend to be quite humid and this excess atmospheric moisture encourages growth of a wide variety of vegetation, right from mosses to gigantic trees.
Coniferous Forest Biome Plants
The typical taiga plants and vegetation comprise mostly of conifers (hence, the name coniferous forests) and coniferous trees. Trees like birch, alder, poplar and willow are commonly seen in the more temperate taiga regions while the Dahurian Larch can withstand the harshest cold of the Siberian taiga. Evergreen trees like spruce, pine and fir can be seen all round the year, even during winters. The temperate coniferous forests often get a ground cover of lichen, flowering shrubs and bushes, wild flowers where the woodland foliage tends to be sparse.
Aspen and rowan trees are also part of the biosphere of coniferous forests. Other plants and trees found in these coniferous forests are scrub pine, Scotch pine, prickers, mistletoe, holly bush, red cedar, blue spruce, Norway pine, blue cedar, etc. The dominant flora differs with geographical region as the taiga is spread over a diverse geographic landscape. The soil chemistry, atmosphere and climatic conditions determine the flora of the region.
Coniferous Forest Biome Animals
The coniferous forests, being hosts to a lot of diversity in terms of geography, climate, location and plant life, act as natural habitat to a wide variety of animal life. The Canadian coniferous forest itself houses over 80 different species of mammals, more than 100 species of fish and well over 30, 000 insect species! Due to the presence of evergreen, deciduous trees and vegetation, a lot of herbivorous animals are also found in the taiga biome. Common taiga animals found in various geographical coniferous forests include wild animals like reindeer, moose, roe deer, elk, squirrels, beaver, mountain hare, vole, snowshoe hare, grizzly bear, American black bear, wolverine, weasels, foxes, lynx, raccoons, muskrat, malamute, musk ox, huskies, lemmings, wolves, etc.
A lot of bird species like bald eagles, snow owl, snow goose, golden eagle, raven, buzzard, a few grouse species, white throated swallow and Siberian thrush, are also found in these regions. Most of these birds, like white-throated swallow, black-throated green warbler and Siberian thrush migrate to the coniferous forests during the brief summers. Scorpions and mosquitoes are also found in abundance in the temperate taiga regions.
That was a brief account of the biome of coniferous forests. As we can see from this article, the taiga is host to a larger biodiversity than other biomes like the tundra biome or the deserts. The reason behind this is the comparatively temperate and balanced climatic conditions of the taiga that goes in contrast with the extreme geo-climatic conditions of the other two biomes. This makes the coniferous forests one of the most interesting biospheres and ecosystems on the planet.