The largest land biome The taiga,
otherwise known as a boreal or coniferous forest, is the largest land biome.
The taiga can be found between the latitudes of 50° and 70° N in North America
and Eurasia, including Canada and Russia. The average temperature in the taiga
is below freezing for at least six months of the year. This makes it difficult
for animals to stay year-round. Some do stay put, some hibernate, and some
migrate .Annual precipitation averages 40 to 100 centimeters. Much of this
falls during the short growing season (approximately 130 days). Summer
temperatures rarely reach above 21°C.
Evergreen trees with needle-like leaves
are the most common type of vegetation found in the taiga, which is the Russian
word for forest. These include pine, fir, and spruce trees. All of these trees
are cone-shaped, which helps them shed snow so its weight doesn’t break their
branches. The needle shape of the leaves helps prevent moisture loss in the
winter. This is important because trees can’t take in water from frozen soil.
The fact that they don’t lose their needles in the fall means that they don’t
have to waste time in the early spring growing new ones, and can get started on
photosynthesis as soon as it is warm enough. The roots of these trees are
shallow and spread out wide. This makes it possible for them to take in surface
water from melting snow and ice even though much of the ground underneath them
is still frozen.
Snow keeps things warm!
Did you know that snow is a great
insulator? In the taiga biome, a thick layer of snow (often several meters
deep) falls before the coldest part of the winter. The air spaces between snow
crystals prevent the ground underneath from losing more and more heat as the winter
Surviving the winter in the taiga
While air temperatures may be well
below 0 °C for weeks on end, the ground temperature will remain right around
freezing. Mice and other small mammals make tunnels in the snow that link their
burrows and food stashes. The temperature in the burrows remains fairly
constant, even when the outside air temperature plummets.