Did you know, that boreal forest, or Taiga, covers 9% of all Earth’s land and is the world’s largest land biome? My home is surrounded by Taiga and I decided to start my blog from discovering this amazing world of the northern forest. Boreal forest runs across the northern USA and Canada, southern Iceland, across Norway, Finland, Sweden, through Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and northern Japan.
Boreal forest has a subarctic climate with a very large temperature range between seasons, but the long and cold winter is the dominant feature. Taiga sleeps most of the year. Today, at the beginning of April, the forest is still dormant, and only first signs of life are notable. Green leaves of lingonberry, pines and spruce trees add some color to the picture, but the rest of the forest has a quite boring monochrome palette. But in a couple of months, this forest will become full of life, sounds, and colors. Billions of birds, from tiny kinglet to big cranes, will come back from south to continue the circle of life and give birth to their offsprings. They migrate thousands of miles every year. This is amazing, but they know the truth of life. The only northern boreal forest can give them enough for growth. I will tell you more about life in Taiga later in my blog. For today – just some facts about this part of the world.
8 facts about Taiga
- The word “boreal” might be most familiar because of the phenomenon aurora borealis, or Northern Lights. The best places to watch the lights are in the northwestern parts of Canada, Alaska, over the southern tip of Greenland and Iceland, the northern coast of Norway and over the coastal waters north of Siberia.
- The winters, with average temperatures below freezing, last five to seven months. The lowest recorded temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere were recorded in the Taiga of northeastern Russia. Temperatures vary from −54°C to 30°C (-65°F to 86°F) throughout the whole year.
- The boreal forest is home to 85 species of mammals, 130 species of fish, some 32000 species of insects, and 300 species of birds. Of the 300 bird species that call boreal forest home during the summer, only 30 stay through the winter.
- The boreal forest stores enormous quantities of carbon, possibly more than the temperate and tropical forests combined.
- The most of boreal forest emerged with the end of the last Ice Age about 10000 years ago, with coniferous tree species migrating north. The forest as we know it today in terms of biodiversity took shape about 5000 years ago – just a seconds ago in the geological timescale.
- The soils of the boreal forest are often acidic, due to falling pine needles, and low on nutrients since the cold temperatures do not allow much foliage to rot and turn into dirt.
- Taiga is one of the most threatened by climate change and has experienced some of the most dramatic temperature increases anywhere on Earth. Not to mention the threat from clearcutting for toilet paper, timber logging and, in Canada, tar sands oil extraction which now covers an area larger than England.
- Mankind is responsible for most forest loss worldwide. The biggest cause of deforestation in Taiga is logging. Russia and Canada (along with Brazil in tropics) had the highest gross forest cover loss between 2012 and 2014.