The Largest Terrestrial Biome On Earth Is The?
Answer: Taiga Biome
A biome is a community of plants and animals with shared characteristics, all shaped by the physical climate they share. All across the world, there are many biome types with a higher level of diversity around the tropics and decreasing diversity as you move towards the polar regions. Readers in the United States, for example, will be most familiar with biomes like the temperate broadleaf forests that cover most of the eastern side of the country, the temperate steppe that covers the central region, the subtropical vegetation found in Florida and nearby regions, and the montane forests and arid deserts that cover significant areas of the western side of the country.
With our previous statement about diversity decreasing with distance from the tropics in mind, it should come as no surprise that the largest biome on Earth (apart from the oceans) is far removed from the equator. The taiga biome (also called “boreal forest” or “snow forest”), which starts around the high northern latitudes (ranging from about 50°N to 70°N, but with considerable regional variation), constitutes a significant part of the land mass of northern countries like Canada, Russia, Sweden, and Finland.
Bordered by the tundra and ice sheets to the north and temperate forests to the south, the taiga is a challenging biome for the creatures that call it home. The biome is largely coniferous, dominated by pine, spruce, fir, and larch trees (though some broadleaf trees like birch, aspen, willow, and rowan manage to eek out an existence). Taiga forests also have significant fern, moss, and lichen growth. The fauna of the region is not particularly diverse and is limited to creatures able to survive the harsh winters. Some of the best known inhabitants of the taiga biome include brown bears, moose, beavers, and snowshoe hares, but in the Asian stretches of the taiga, you’ll even find Siberian tigers.
The taiga biome, along with its neighbor the tundra, has been in the spotlight recently as emerging evidence indicates that the two biomes act as enormous carbon sinks, the taiga with its slow growing but large trees and the tundra with ancient reserves of carbon and green house gases locked away in the frozen soil (permafrost). Concerns over climate change and the global effects of a shrinking taiga and melting tundra have led to increased scientific investigation of the areas and an interest in measures to preserve the hardy forests.
Image courtesy of GeForce3/Wikimedia Commons.