Friday, June 8, 2012

Taiga Biome:boreal forests

      Taiga Biome:boreal forests
              Taiga is the world's largest land biome, and makes up 29% of the world's forest cover. the largest areas are located in Russia and Canada. The taiga is the terrestrial biome with the lowest annual average temperatures after the tundra and permanent ice caps. Extreme winter minimums in the northern taiga are typically lower than those of the tundra. The lowest reliably recorded temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere were recorded in the taiga of northeastern Russia. 
               The growing season, when the vegetation in the taiga comes alive, is usually slightly longer than the climatic definition of summer as the plants of the boreal biome have a lower threshold to trigger growth. In Canada, Scandinavia and Finland, the growing season is often estimated by using the period of the year when the 24-hr average temperature is 5 °C or more. For the Taiga Plains in Canada, growing season varies from 80 to 150 days, and in the Taiga Shield from 100 to 140 days. Some sources claim 130 days growing season as typical for the taiga.Other sources mention that 50–100 frost-free days are characteristic. Data for locations in southwest Yukon gives 80–120 frost-free days. The closed canopy boreal forest in Kenozyorsky National Park near Plesetsk, Arkhangelsk Province, Russia, on average has 108 frost-free days.The longest growing season is found in the smaller areas with oceanic influences; in coastal areas of Scandinavia and Finland, the growing season of the closed boreal forest can be 145–180 days.
            Animals found in taiga include woodpeckers, hawks, moose, bear, weasel, lynx, fox, wolf, deer, hares, chipmunks, shrews, and bats. Mammals living in the boreal forests have all adapted in various ways to survive the long cold winters. Generally they have heavy fur coats and many hibernate through the winter.
Growthform Adaptations: The main reasons firs, sprucs and pines are the dominant trees in the boreal forest, and thus define the biome is because they are adapted to the extreme conditions brough about by the cold, including the winter-induced drought and the short growing season. The following are some of the main adaptations we found that trees in this zone have:

  • Conical shape - promotes shedding of snow and prevents loss of branches.
  • Needleleafs - narrow leaves reduce surface area through which water can be lost (transpired), especially in the 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.
  • 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 climate even too dry and cold for the waxy needles of spruce and fir.]
  • 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.