Taiga Climate – Coniferous forests

Taiga Climate is also known as Cool Temperate Continental Climate and is popular by various other names such as Siberian Climate, Boreal Climate. This type of Climate is mainly found in the Northern Hemisphere and is absent in the Southern Hemisphere due to narrow land surface in Southern Hemisphere. Koppen has defined Taiga Climatic region as D type in his climatic classification. According to Koppen's classification, the summer months are warm with temperature more than 10 degrees C while the winter temperature can be less than 3 degrees C

Taiga Climate - Coniferous Forest

Distribution:

  • It stretches from 50 N to 70 N along a continuous belt across central Canada, some parts of Scandinavian Europe and most of central and southern Russian.
  • On the north or polewards it merges into the Arctic tundra of Canada and Eurasia at around the Arctic circle. Hence this climate is also called "Sub-arctic climate".
  • On the south, the climate becomes less severe and merges into the temperate Steppe climate.
  • In the Southern Hemisphere, the Siberian climate is absent due to the narrowness of the continents in the high latitudes.
  • The strong oceanic influence in the Southern Hemisphere also reduces the severity of the winter.

Climate

In Taiga climatic region the summer may be warm or cool while the winter is bitterly cold due to the strong wind and snowstorm which flow from the continental polar and Arctic air mass.

Temperature

  • The climate of these regions is characterized by extremely cold winters of long duration, with temperatures ranging around - 30 C to - 40 C.
  • The summers are cool and brief. Spring and autumn are very brief and transitional periods.
  • Annual range of temperature is very high, almost 50 C to 60 C.
  • The coolest place on earth, Verkhoyansk is situated in this climatic region.
  • With extremely low temperatures for the most part of the year, heavy snowfall and frosts are common in this region.
  • Lakes and rivers are frozen and northerly polar winds such as Blizzards of Canada and Buran of Eurasia blow violently.
  • Conditions are so extreme that Siberian climatic regions are very sparsely populated.

Precipitation

  • Maritime influences are nearly absent in the interiors and hence the annual precipitation is low, generally around 38cm to 63 cm.
  • It is well distributed throughout the year, with a summer maximum from convectional rain when the continental interiors are heated.
  • In winter, the precipitation is in the form of snow.

Natural Vegetation

  • The predominant vegetation of this region is evergreen coniferous forests.
  • Conifers are very well adapted to this region to withstand such inhospitable climate.
  • The greatest single band of the coniferous forest is the taiga in Siberia.
  • Four major species of coniferous forests grow in the region: pine, fir, spruce, and larch.
  • The coniferous forest belts of Eurasia and North America are the richest sources of softwood.

Coniferous forests are of huge commercial value due to the following reasons:

  • They occur in pure stands and there exist only a few species.
  • Unlike the equatorial rain forests which are of high density and difficult to exploit, the coniferous forests occur in uniform heights, grow straight and tall and are of moderate density.
  • Almost all conifers are evergreen. There is no annual replacement of new leaves as in deciduous trees.
  • The low annual temperatures with more than half the year below the growing-point temperature is a huge advantage for the evergreens.
  • Conifers are conical in shape and with this adaptation, they survive in the sub-arctic climate.
  • The sloping branches prevent snow accumulation and offer little grip to the winds.
  • Leaves are small, thick, leathery and needle-shaped to check excessive transpiration.
  • The undergrowth in the region due to poor podzolized soils which are excessively leached and acidic.
  • Since the leaves of the evergreen forests do not fall, they offer little humus formation and the rate of decomposition of the leathery needles is slow due to low temperatures.
  • Also, the absence of direct sunlight and short duration of summer are other deterrents for sparse undergrowth.
  • Besides the continental interiors of high latitudes, coniferous forests are also found in regions of high altitude and reduced temperatures. Example: In the Himalayas.

Economic Development

  • The coniferous forests regions in the northern hemisphere are little developed.
  • Most of these forests are still untouched as they are not accessible.
  • In the more accessible areas of the forests, lumbering is the predominant occupation.
  • Few crops survive in the Siberian climates with long, cold winter and frozen winters.
  • Hence there is little agriculture in these lands.
  • Many of the natives like Samoyeds, Yakuts or Siberia and some Canadians are engaged in hunting, trapping and fishing.

Two major activities of the region are trapping and lumbering.

Trapping

  • Many fur-bearing animals inhabit the northern lands of Canada and Eurasia.
  • In Canada, trappers and hunters armed with modern automatic rifles in the midst of coniferous forests track down these animals.
  • Muskat, ermine, mink and silver fox are the most important fur-bearing animals.
  • Many fur farms have been established in Canada, to ensure regular supply of furs.
  • In Siberia, other fur-bearing animals like the squirrels, otters, bears, sables, lynxes, martens and foxes are trapped.

Lumbering

  • This is the most important occupation of the Taiga type of climate.
  • Trees are felled for many purposes such as saw-milling, paper and pulp industry, fuel, industrial raw material.
  • Saw-milling: This processes logs into sawn-timber, plywood, planks, hardboard and other constructional woods.
  • Paper and pulp industry: By mechanical and chemical means, timber is pulped to make wood pulp. This is used as a raw material for papermaking and newsprint.
  • Fuel: Softwoods are not used as fuel due to its industrial uses. Hardwoods are burnt as fuel, particularly in the tropical regions. Since this region is covered with softwoods, less than a quarter of it is used as fuel.
  • Industrial raw material: Timber has a wide range of industrial uses. Timber is used for making furniture, matches, wood-carvings, toys, crates and packing cases.

Factors favourable for Lumbering in Siberian Climate:

  • Coniferous forests occur in pure stands or homogenous groups and not mixed as the tropical forests.
  • This not enhances the commercial value of the felled timber, but also save time and money.
  • Lumbering replaces agriculture as in these high latitudes agriculture is highly unproductive.
  • In winter the sap of the trees ceases to flow and lumbering is normally carried out in the winter months.
  • The snow-covered ground in winters makes logging and haulage relatively simpler.
  • The logs and dragged and float on the rivers to the sawmills downstream. This has greatly helped the lumbering industry in Canada and Sweden. But in Siberia unfortunately, all the rivers drain polewards into the Arctic Ocean.
  • Cheap hydro-electricity for driving sawmills is harnessed from the mountainous uplands of North America and Europe which have greatly assisted the lumbering industry.

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