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Welcome to the Boreal Forest (also known as the Taiga)


by J. Zimmerman

The Boreal Forest (also known as the Taiga)

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  1. What is the boreal forest?
  2. What is the difference between the taiga and the boreal forest?
  3. What is the difference between the tundra and the boreal forest?
  4. What trees are found in the boreal forest?
  5. How do you identify a tree species in the boreal forest?

What is the boreal forest?

The boreal extends to the northern limit of trees. It:

  1. Exists where the growing season is too short for deciduous trees.
  2. Contains relatively few species, compared to tropical or temperate forests.
  3. has these main types:

What is the difference between the taiga
and the boreal forest?

Taiga is the Russian word for the far northern coniferous forest, extending to the Northern limit of trees. While the expression was originally applied to the forests of Siberia, it can also be used for those of Eurasia and North America.

It is called the boreal forest.

What is the difference between the tundra
and the boreal forest?

Tundra is a treeless barrens, separated by the tree line from the boreal forest and closer to the pole than it.

For a fascinating description of the life of the tundra, see E.C.Pielou's A Naturalist's Guide to the Arctic
Tundra is usually flat or undulating, covered with lichen, sedges and grasses, mosses, and low shrubs (dwarf willows and birches).

What trees are found in the boreal forest?

Plants of the Western Boreal Forest and Aspen Parkland lists only 14:

  1. Abies balsamea - Balsam fir.
  2. Abies lasiocarpa - Subalpine fir.
  3. Acer negundo - Box elder. Also called Manitoba maple.
  4. Betula papyrifera - White birch. Also called paper birch or canoe birch.
  5. Fraxinus pennsylvanica - Green ash. Also called red ash.
  6. Larix laricina - Larch.
  7. Pinus banksiana - Jack pine.
  8. Pinus contorta - Lodgepole pine.
  9. Picea glauca - White spruce.
  10. Picea mariana - Black spruce.
  11. Populus balsamifera - Balsam poplar. Also known as black poplar.
  12. Populus tremuloides - Trembling aspen. Also known as white poplar.
  13. Quercus macrocarpa - Black oak.
  14. Ulmus americana - American elm.

Canada's Boreal Forest observes that evergreens are well suited to the Boreal region because they carry their 'photosynthesis equipment' from one short growing season to the next.

In A Naturalist's Guide to the Arctic E.C. Pielou notes that the tree specimen seen in the far north are often small and stunted compared with specimens seen on deeper and richer soil that is thawed year-round at a latitude of daily sun. She describes why the treeline occurs, marking the junction of the boreal forest with the tundra and lists. the most important trees at treeline as the two spruces:

  1. Picea glauca - White spruce.
  2. Picea mariana - Black spruce.

However, one also sees:

  1. Larix laricina - Larch.

Besides the conifers at treeline, there are three subarctic hardwoods:

  1. Betula papyrifera - White birch. Also called paper birch or canoe birch. These birches have the classic peeling and papery bark, but because "the trunks are often brown or cream-colored rather than a conspicuous white like the paper birches of southern latitudes ... the tree is often called Alaska birch, and some botanists classify it as a separate species, Betula neoalaska" (Pielou).
  2. Populus balsamifera - Balsam poplar, "the only broad-leaved tree in the region having deeply furrowed bark ... the most northerly growing tree species on the continent" (Pielou).
  3. Populus tremuloides - Trembling aspen. Also known as white poplar.

How do you identify a tree species
in the boreal forest?

Abies balsamea - Balsam fir.

Abies lasiocarpa - Subalpine fir.

Acer negundo - Box elder. Also called Manitoba maple.

Betula papyrifera - White birch. Also called paper birch or canoe birch.

Fraxinus pennsylvanica - Green ash. Also called red ash.

Larix laricina - Larch.

Pinus banksiana - Jack pine.

Pinus contorta - Lodgepole pine.

Picea glauca - White spruce.

Picea mariana - Black spruce.

Populus balsamifera - Balsam poplar. Also known as black poplar.

Populus tremuloides - Aspen. Also known as white poplar.

Quercus macrocarpa - Black oak.

Ulmus americana - American elm.

Books

Alberta Centre for Boreal Research.
Ecology and management of boreal forests in western Canada.
Canada's Boreal Forest.
Author David Henry.
Plants of the Western Boreal Forest and Aspen Parkland.
Authors Derek Johnson et al. have produced a magnificent field guide for the hiker and the naturalist interested in the boreal forests from Alaska to Ontario.
A Naturalist's Guide to the Arctic.
E.C. Pielou. A fascinating description of the life of the tundra.


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