The taiga (from Russian тайга, tajgà, a term of probable Altaic origin) or boreal forest is one of the main terrestrial biomes, formed by coniferous forests that totally cover the sub-arctic boreal regions of Eurasia and America, constituting one third of the world’s forest mass. From the ecological point of view, it can be defined as a “continental landscape” and therefore has a structural importance within the ecosphere or, if you prefer, within the terrestrial ecosystem. For some differences, which are not substantial, we can distinguish a Euro-Asian taiga and a North American taiga.

Bounded to the north by the Arctic tundra and to the south by steppes and grasslands, it is characterized by a continental climate with a long, cold winter, which favors the persistence of snow cover until late spring, and by a short, dry summer. Given the blockage of bacterial activity due to the cold weather, there is very little decomposition of conifer needles fallen to the ground and therefore the result is a soil with acid humus often covered by swamps and marshes.

In the taiga predominate plants of the genus Picea, Abies, Pinus and Larix, but there are also, among the broadleaf trees, birches and alders; the undergrowth is mainly formed by ericaceae and lichens. Characteristic of the taiga are some large herbivorous mammals including the European bison (now protected in the reserve of Białowieska, Poland), reindeer, the wapiti, foxes, elks, some deer; among the carnivores martens, sables and mustelids in general. Numerous are the rodents (leporidae, sciuridae, muridae) and the birds (galliformes, passeriformes, piciformes) among which the capercaillie, the jays, the crossbills (from the curious beak able to extract pine nuts from the woody scales of the pine cones), the woodpeckers.

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