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Taiga Ecosystem
Jan 16, 2014

An ‘Ecosystem’ is a region with a specific and recognizable landscape form such as forest, grassland, desert, wetland or coastal area. The nature of the ecosystem is based on its geographical features such as hills, mountains, plains, rivers, lakes, coastal areas or islands. It is also controlled by climatic conditions such as the amount of sunlight, the temperature and the rainfall in the region. The geographical, climatic and soil characteristics form its non-living (abotic) component. These features create conditions that support a community of plants and animals that evolution has produced to live in these specific conditions. The living part of the ecosystem is referred to as its biotic component.

Characteristics of Taiga ecosystem

  • These forests are located in the far north typically between the temperate forest biome and the tundra biome. On the globe this is between 50 degrees latitude north and the Arctic Circle. The largest taiga forest covers much of northern Russia and Siberia. Other major taiga forests include North America (Canada and Alaska) and Scandinavia (Finland, Norway, and Sweden).

  • The dominant plant in the taiga is the coniferous evergreen tree. These trees include spruce, pine, cedar, and fir trees.

  • The conical or spire-shaped needle leaf trees common to the taiga are adapted to the cold and the physiological drought of winter and to the short-growing season:

    I. Conical shape – promotes shedding of snow and prevents loss of branches.

    II. Needle leaf – narrowness reduces surface area through which water may be lost (transpired), especially during winter when the frozen ground prevents plants from replenishing their water supply. The needles of boreal conifers also have thick waxy coatings–a waterproof cuticle–in which stomata are sunken and protected from drying winds.

    III. Evergreen habit – retention of foliage allows plants to photosynthesize as soon as temperatures permit in spring, rather than having to waste time in the short growing season merely growing leaves. [Note: Deciduous larch are dominant in areas underlain by nearly continuous permafrost and having a limate even too dry and cold for the waxy needles of spruce and fir.

    IV. Dark color – the dark green of spruce and fir needles helps the foliage absorb maximum heat from the sun and begin photosynthesis as early as possible.

  • Podzolization occurs as a result of the acid soil solution produced under needleleaf trees. The main soil order associated with the taiga is spodosol.

  • The boreal forest, or taiga, supports a large range of animals. Canada's boreal forest includes 85 species of mammals, 130 species of fish, and an estimated 32,000 species of insects. Insects play a critical role as pollinators, decomposers, and as a part of the food web. Many nesting birds rely on them for food especially in the months of February and March. The cold winters and short summers make the taiga a challenging biome for reptiles and amphibians, which depend on environmental conditions to regulate their body temperatures, and there are only a few species in the boreal forest including red-sided garter snake, common European adder, blue-spotted salamander, northern two-lined salamander, Siberian salamander, wood frog, northern leopard frog, boreal chorus frog, American toad, and Canadian toad. Most hibernate underground in winter.

  • Fish of the taiga must be able to withstand cold water conditions and be able to adapt to life under ice covered water. Species in the taiga include Alaska blackfish, northern pike, walleye, long nose sucker,white sucker, various species of cisco, lake whitefish, round whitefish, pygmy whitefish, arctic lamprey, various grayling species, brook trout (including sea-run brook trout in the Hudson bay area), chum salmon, Siberian taimen, lenok and lake chub.

  • The taiga is home to a number of large herbivorous mammals, such as moose and reindeer/caribou.

  • Most birds are migratory and feed on the abundant summer insect population, which is not available during the long, cold winter.

  • Typical mammals are deer, caribou, moose, wolves, weasels, mice, snowshoe hares, and squirrels. Because of the cold, few reptiles and amphibians live in this biome


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