The Heart of Siberia
The taiga forests of eastern Siberia are given to extremes. The summers are very hot, reaching a maximum of over 100° F (40° C). But winter is bitterly cold, dipping down to nearly -80° F (or -62° C). With permafrost a constant feature, the animals that live here are tough creatures indeed.
An extensive river network is a key feature of this geographically diverse ecoregion. The dominant vegetation is light needle-leaf taiga, with a larch tree of the species Larix gmelini forming the canopy in areas with low snowfall. Dark needle-leaf taiga is distributed in patches throughout the ecoregion, containing two other species of larch. Open grass-lichen and grass-moss pine forests are common in the Angara River basin and along the headwaters of the Lena and Nizhnyaya Tunguska rivers. Despite the presence of so much water, however, large bogs and swamps are noticeably absent.
Hoofed animals are common in these taiga forests. Moose, the largest of the deer family, can be spotted along river bottoms. Elk, another large species of deer, also prefer the river bottoms, migrating to upland areas in the summer and early fall. On the smaller end of the deer family are roe deer. These shy animals become active only at twilight. Another hoofed creature, the wild pig, is an opportunistic eater that will consume everything from roots and berries to reptiles and rodents. This ecoregion also harbors some predatory birds, including golden eagles, ospreys, and peregrine falcons.
Cause for Concern
The Eastern Siberian Taiga still preserves vast tracts of pristine habitat. But only a fraction of these areas is formally protected, and many scientists say the existing protected area network is not sufficient. Human induced forest fires, clear-cutting, and poaching are all serious threats.
For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001