The Boreal Forest

The Boreal forest is the world’s largest land-based biome. Spreading over continents and covering many countries, the Boreal plays a significant role in the planet’s biodiversity and even its climate. The biome is known as boreal in Canada, but is also known as taiga, a Russian word. The boreal covers most of inland Canada and Alaska, most of Sweden, Finland and inland Norway, much of Russia, and the northern parts of Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Japan, covering some 12 million square kilometers.

Skjomtinden & Kongsbakktinden from Bogen, 2010 September
By far the most dominant tree species are conifers which are well-adapted to the harsh climate, and thin, acidic soils. Black and white spruce are characteristic species of this region along with Tamarack, Jack Pine and Balsam Fir. Needleleaf, coniferous (gymnosperm) trees, the dominant plants of the boreal biome, are a very few species found in four main genera – the evergreen spruce (Picea), fir (Abies), and pine (Pinus), and the deciduous larch or tamarack (Larix).

By Bartosh Dmytro, Ukraine, Kiev. http://fotostudio.com.ua (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Jack London Lake — at Kolyma, Magadan Oblast, far eastern Russia. Pinus pumila in foreground, Taiga forests in background.

By Bartosh Dmytro, Ukraine, Kiev. http://fotostudio.com.ua (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Jack London Lake — at Kolyma, Magadan Oblast, far eastern Russia. Pinus pumila in foreground, Taiga forests in background.

The North American boreal forest offers breeding grounds to over 200 bird species, as well as being home to species such as Caribou, Lynx, Black and Black Bears, Moose, Coyote, Timber Wolf and recovering populations of Wood Bison. It is believed that more than 32,000 species of insects live in the taiga/boreal forest biome.

Brown bear, Kamchatka peninsula. Brown bears are among the largest and most widespread taiga omnivores.

Locked up in the Boreal forests are vast amounts of carbon, and their biomass is so huge and so vital that when they are in their maximum growth phase during the northern spring and summer, the worldwide levels of carbon dioxide fall and the worldwide levels of oxygen rise.

Picea glauca taiga, Denali Highway, Alaska; Alaska Range in the background.

Globally, the existence of large areas of boreal forest cover has a significant effect on the radiative balance of the planet. The boreal forest is the breeding zone for a huge influx of migratory forest birds that perform many important roles (e.g., insect consumption, seed dispersal) in the boreal region and in other forests of the world during migration and winter residence in the south.