Life in the coniferous forest, also known as the taiga, can be cold and dreary. Snow, cold, and very little food can make living in such an enviorment challenging, especially during the winter. These winters can be so tough, that most taiga animals will either migrate south, or hibernate for the winter. Animals that don't do either of these chose to suffer through many months of starvation and almost, and sometimes, death.
The food chain of the taiga is not large and extensive, due to the fact of there being very little species inhabiting the taiga. The following diagram is a basic look at the taiga food chain:
Some of the animals above, and others as well that inhabit the taiga are as follows:
Arctic Fox: The Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) is a furry mammal that lives in the far north, in the tundra and coastal areas of North America, Iceland, Greenland, Scandinavia, and Siberia. The Arctic fox is found farther north than any other land mammal.
Black Bear: American Black Bears are large, mostly harmless bears that live mostly in forests, but also in swamps and desert scrub. These solitary mammals are found across North America.
Brown Bear: Brown bears are large mammals that live in cool mountain forests, meadows, and river valleys. These solitary bears can run up to 35 mph (56 kph) for short bursts. Widespread in the Northern Hemisphere, brown bears are found in North America, Europe, and Asia. Grizzly bears are a type of large brown bear found in the interior of North America.
Although they sleep in dens (caves, hollow logs, or holes they dig) during the winter, they are not true hibernators and can be easily awakened. Brown bears have a life span of about 25 years in the wild.
Grizzly Bear: Grizzly Bears are large brown bears that live in cool mountain forests and river valleys. These solitary mammals can run up to 35 mph (56 kph) for short bursts. Grizzlies are a threatened species.
Caribou: The Caribou is a medium-sized member of the deer family that is closely related to the reindeer. The genus and species of the Caribou are Rangifer tarandus.
This deer is found in Canadian tundra, forests, and mountains. Many subspecies of caribou migrate in huge herds across the tundra, traveling over 800 miles (1290 km) each year. Caribou have a life span of about 15 years in the wild.
White-Tailed Deer: The White-Tailed Deer is a long-legged, fast-moving mammal. The genus and species of the White-Tailed Deer are Odocoileus virginianus. This deer is found over most of North and Central America and northern parts of South America. It lives in deciduous forests, conifer forests, rainforests, grasslands, farm land, marshes, and even deserts. It has a life span of about 9 to 12 years.
Siberian Husky: The Siberian Husky is an affectionate, powerful, energetic, and muscular sled dog from the Arctic. This hard-working dog is known for its incredible endurance. It is a fast runner with a smooth gait. Huskies are often put on dog teams in the Iditarod dog sled race in Alaska.
The Siberian Husky was bred hundreds of years ago by the Chukchi, a tribe from eastern Siberian, in the Arctic. The husky was also used to herd reindeer. Generally a quiet dog, the husky doesn't bark, but howls and makes a woo-woo sound.
Arctic Wolf: The Arctic Wolf (Canis lupus arctos) is a wild dog that lives in the Canadian Arctic. This wolf is a subspecies of the gray wolf and is sometimes called the tundra wolf. It is a fast-running carnivore (a meat-eater) that lives alone or in packs of about 6 wolves. The Arctic Wolf lives about 10-15 years in the wild; it lives about 20 years in captivity.
Malamute: The Alaskan Malamute is a powerful and muscular sled dog from Alaska. This hard-working dog is the largest sled dog. Malamutes are often put on dog teams in the Iditarod dog sled race in Alaska. Malamutes are known for extraordinary endurance but not for speed.
Gray Wolf: The Gray Wolf (also known as the Timber Wolf) is a wild dog that lives in packs (groups). Gray wolves that live in the treeless plains of the far north are called Tundra Wolves or Arctic Wolves. The gray wolf is a fast-running carnivore (meat-eater). After almost going extinct, it is now only found in Alaska, Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Squirrel: Squirrels are common rodents that have hairy tails and strong hind legs. There are are over 200 different species of squirrels that live in a variety of habitats. There are three types: tree squirrels (with bushy tails), ground squirrels (with a non-bushy tail), and flying squirrels (who cannot really fly, but can glide up to 150 feet=46 m using a flap of skin). Tree squirrels are the squirrels that are common in cities. Many ground squirrel hibernate during cold winters, sleeping in a nest until warm weather arrives. Squirrels can live up to 15 years in captivity.
Bald Eagle: The bald eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, is a magnificent bird of prey that is native to North America. This majestic eagle is not really bald; white feathers cover its head. The derivation of the name "bald" is from an obsolete English word meaning white. The bald eagle has been the national symbol of the USA since 1782.
Red-Tailed Hawk: The Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is a the most common and widespread hawk in North America. This raptor, a bird of prey, is a powerful flier that lives in swamps, taigas, deserts, and a variety of biomes.
Snowy Owl: The snowy owl (Nyctea scandiaca) is a bird of prey that lives in the tundra of North America. This owl is diurnal (most active during the day).
Though there are very little humans living within the coniferous forest, humans have a large impact on the forest, much larger than most people know! Various things that humans do affect the forest, including:
Deforestation: Current extensive logging in boreal forests may soon cause their disappearance.
Acid Rain: 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%.