Taiga forests extend from Scandinavia to the Pacific coast of Russia, crossing the northern part of Europe and Asia. This subarctic region is bordered on the northern side by tundra and to a certain extent by steppes and some grasslands on the southern side. They are located between 50 degrees and 60 degrees north latitudes [source: University of California Museum of Paleontology]. Occasionally, the phrases taiga and boreal are used to refer to the North American forests ranging from Alaska to Newfoundland.
This large circle of subarctic forest makes up nearly one-third of the world's total forest area [source: Taiga Rescue Network]. That makes it an important guardian of the Earth, because forests help protect against global warming. The taiga forests also serve as home to many rare plants and animals and hundreds of indigenous peoples. Summers are short in the taiga region and temperatures are only moderately warm even in summer. Winters are long, cold and dry and most of the 15.7 to 39.4 inches (40 to 100 centimeters) of annual precipitation fall in the form of snow. The cold weather still supports many evergreen conifers; in the subarctic region of taiga, you'll find spruce, fir, pine and evergreens. These trees help sustain animals such as woodpeckers, hawks, bears, moose, foxes, wolves, deer and chipmunks.
Although animal populations outnumber humans in the taiga region, the area is threatened. Deforestation for industrial use of pulp and paper has threatened many areas of the forest. Much of the forestry efforts are unsustainable, as methods such as clear-cutting and introduction of pesticides and herbicides have been allowed in the region. Other threats include oil and gas exploration, building of roads, mining and human-caused forest fires. If extensive logging is not curbed, the boreal forests could all but disappear. The indigenous people who live in these areas also will be affected by changes to the natural forested areas.
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