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Introduction to ecosystems

Coniferous trees in North America

Taiga (Coniferous Forest)

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Where is Taiga found?
Taiga (or Boreal Forests) represent the largest terrestrial biome. Occurring between 50 and 60 degrees north latitudes, boreal forests can be found in the broad belt of Eurasia and North America: two-thirds in Siberia, while the rest--in Scandinavia, Alaska, and Canada. Taiga is found in the Northern parts of North America, Europe and Asia.

What is Taiga?
Taiga is a belt of coniferous forest found in the northern hemisphere, close to Arctic Tundra. Coniferous trees are needle-leaved trees that are usually evergreen and shallow rooted and usually bear cones.

How did the Taiga get like this?
Coniferous trees are tolerant to a wide range of soils and climates. It is therefore suited to the thin, nutrient poor and acidic soils common in the extreme northern latitudes. The branches of these conical shaped coniferous trees are flexible and let snow slide off. Also, the needle-like leaves reduce water loss.

What is the impact of humans on the Taiga?
Human action is having a significant impact on the Taiga.

Deforestation - Current extensive logging in boreal forests may soon cause their disappearance.

Acid rain

[Acid Rain Diagram]Acid rain is also causing significant problems for the Taiga forests. Acid rain is rain that is more acidic than normal. Scientists have discovered that air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels is the major cause of acid rain. Power plants and factories burn coal and oil. The smoke and fumes from burning fossil fuels rise into the atmosphere and combine with the moisture in the air to form acid rain. The main chemicals in air pollution that create acid rain are sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
Acid rain does not usually kill trees directly. Instead, it is more likely to weaken the trees by damaging their leaves, limiting the nutrients available to them, or poisoning them with toxic substances slowly released from the soil. Once trees are weak, they can be more easily attacked by diseases or insects that ultimately kill them. Weakened trees may also become injured more easily by cold weather.

Global Warming - Biologists and scientists think temperature changes over the next century may occur at rates 15 to 50 times faster than historical averages. Organisms will have trouble responding to these changes and will face even greater odds of surviving. Extreme changes in temperature and precipitation could cause climatic zones to shift several hundred kilometres toward the poles over the next 50 years. Climatologists are also predicting that the area covered by boreal forests (the taiga) will be reduced by 50-90%.

What is the future for the Taiga? - Sustainable Development

If development of the Taiga is to be sustainable (e.g. although the resources are used to aid development, it/they will still exist for future generations to use) a number of measures must be taken. These include:

Afforestation - Deforestation should be managed more carefully. Trees should be replanted in areas of deforestation.

Acid Rain - Scrubbers should be used to reduce pollution from factories releasing pollution into the atmosphere.

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