The Taiga Biome

If you’ve never Googled, “what is the largest terrestrial biome,” or you don’t know what any of those words mean, than you probably aren’t aware of taiga (pronounced like “tiger” but with an “uh” instead of an “ur”). Taiga (or, the Boreal Forest, as it is often called in the United States) is, as you may have guessed, “the largest terrestrial (land) biome in the world.

Located between the tundra and the temperate forest biomes in the Northern Hemisphere, the taiga is made of a variety of plants and trees, although if trees are to survive, they must be ready for particularly harsh winters. In a subarctic climate like the taiga, a wide and volatile temperature range can be expected, with average temperatures typically around 14 °F/-10 °C in the winter, and reaching high 60s (°F) in the summer (source). Given these circumstances, it’s no surprise that the taiga is home to so many evergreensconical-shaped trees with needle-like leaves, with seeds clumped into cones. These trees are much more hardy, by nature, than trees from the temperate forest biome, such as maple trees, which would most surely shrivel up and die in frozen agony were they to be transported to the northern reaches of the taiga, though they can sometimes be found in the more southern taiga.

The animals which populate the taiga navigate the harsh winters in unique ways. Wolves, among other animals, choose to stay awake and active through the winter, travelling in packs and taking advantage of animals that may find the search for food to be more difficult in the depths of the coldest season. Most birds that find their way up to the taiga in summer know to fly like there’s no tomorrow when the temperatures plummet, and settle down somewhere in their warmer wintering grounds of Central and South America. Bears, as well as some small rodents, on the other hand, choose to hibernate. In order to escape the wolves, which are usually distracted by the roaming deer and moose, these hibernating animals dig dens or burrows as winter approaches. The animals of the taiga are aware that Winter is Coming more than any noble dynasties, fictional or otherwise.

If you’re planning a visit to the taiga, one of the most populated and perhaps most moderate experiences of the biome can be found in Toronto, Canada, home of 2.8 million or so non-migrating, non-hibernating humans. If you do visit, be sure to read this notice about preventing the freezing of pipes. If you already live in the northern United States, you may be able to experience the southern portion of the biome simply by travelling north, to the more northern reaches of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, northern Minnesota, northern North Dakota, northern Montana, or northern Washington.

Whether you spend your whole life in the taiga or never find time to visit, your experience of planet Earth is likely impacted by the taiga, as it is “estimated that Earth would be significantly colder” without the rough flora of the sub-arctic biome, which mitigates the cold of the vast winter snow.

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