Ornithology

Scandinavian and Russian taiga

November 19, 2012, 1:36 am
Content Cover Image

Scandinavian and Russian taiga forest, southern Finland. @ C.Michael Hogan

Scandinavian and Russian taiga is an ecoregion in northern Eurasia. Seacoast frontage includes portions of the Baltic Sea (Gulf of Bothnia and Gulf of Finland) to the south; the White Sea to the north; and a portion of the North Sea along the Norwegian west coast. This ecoregion is classified within the boreal forests/taiga biome.

The sole vertebrate endemic in this ecoregion is the avian species, razorbill (Alca torda). However, there are a number of special status mammals and birds within the Scandinavian and Russian taiga, as well as one reptilian taxon.

Location and general description caption Scandinavian and Russian taiga. Source: World Wildlife Fund

The Scandinavian and Russian taiga is sandwiched between tundra at the north and temperate mixed forests to the south. This ecoregion encompasses approximately 2,157,000 square kilometres and covers parts of northwestern Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway. It is the most extensive ecoregion of Europe with regard to land areal size.

Growing season in taiga areas is generally considered to be measured as the number of days for which average daily temperature exceeds five degrees Celsius. The longest growing season for the Scandinavian and Russian taiga occurs in the locales with marine influence from the North Sea and Baltic Sea: in coastal areas of Norway, Sweden and Finland the growing season of the closed boreal forest can reach as high as 145 to 180 days per annum. The shortest growing season of the ecoregion is found in continental Russia and at the far northern part of the ecoregion at the ecotone with tundra.

caption Taiga forest around Lake Vodlozero. Source: NASA Soil nutrient levels are generally poor, but diversity of soil organisms can attain high levels, particularly in the southern reaches of the ecoregion. In these southern elements of the ecoregion, closed canopy boreal forest with some temperate deciduous tree species interspersed among the dominant conifers, including maple, elm and oak. This southern portion of the forest (especially coastal elements) exhibits the longest growing season of the ecoregion, and in some areas of Norway, Sweden, Finland and western Russia, this zone is often exploited for agriculture. Some of the elements of the ecoregion are rich in wetlands, as exemplified by the Femundsmarka National Park in Norway, which is replete with marshes and lakes.

Biodiversity

caption Historic engraving of the Russian desman. Source: Gustav M├╝tzel There are a total of 368 native vertebrate species in the Scandinavian and Russian taiga according to WWF tabulation; when all migratory bird species are included, this number is somewhat larger. There is a single endemic species in the ecoregion, a bird, the razorbill (Alca torda).

This ecoregion supports the following native non-endemic threatened mammals: the Endangered European mink (Mustela lutreola); the Near Threatened European otter (Lutra lutra); the Near Threatened garden dormouse (Eliomys quercina); the Near Threatened giant noctule (Nyctalus lasiopterus); the Near Threatened pond bat (Myotis dasycneme), the Vulnerable western barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus) and the Vulnerable Russian desman (Desmana moschata).

The Scandinavian and Russian taiga has only a single non-endemic special status native reptile: the Lower Risk grass snake (Natrix natrix).

Native non-endemic threatened avian species in the ecoregion are: the Vulnerable aquatic warbler (Acrocephalus palidicola); the Near Threatened black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa); the Near Threatened Eurasian curlew (Numenius arquata); the Near Threatened European roller (Coracias garrulus); the Near Threatened great snipe (Gallinago media); the Vulnerable greater spotted eagle (Aquila clanga); the Vulnerable lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus); the Near Threatened pallid harrier (Circus macrourus); the Near Threatened red-footed falcon (Falco vespertinus) and the Vulnerable yellow-breasted bunding (Emberiza aureola).

Protected areas

caption Muddhus National Park. Source: Ulrike Wegner The following is a partial list of protected areas lying within the Scandinavian and Russian taiga:

  • Björnlandet National Park, Sweden
  • Femundsmarka National Park, Norway
  • Isojärvi National Park, Finland
  • Koli National Park, Finland
  • Liesjärvi National Park, Finland
  • Muddus National Park, Sweden
  • Paanajärvi National Park, Russia
  • Pirkanmaa National Park, Finland
  • Skuleskogen National Park, Sweden
  • Vodlozersky National Park, Russia

Status and threats

This palearctic ecoregion is considered Critical/Endangered and is classified as PA0608 by the World Wildlife Fund. The southern reaches of the ecoregion are threatened by conversion to agriculture due to the mild climate and long growing season.

References

  • Bernhard Butzin . 1991. Helsinki — aspects of urban development and planning. GeoJournal. Springer, Netherlands.  2 (1): 11–26
  • A.Moen. 1998. Nasjonalatlas for Norge: Vegetasjon. Statens Kartverk, Hønefoss. ISBN 82-90408-26-9 [in Norwegian]
  • April Pulley Sayre. 1994. Taiga, Twenty-First Century Books, ISBN 0-8050-2830-7
  • U.G.Bolub Bohn and C. Hettwer. 2000. Reduced general map of the natural vegetation of Europe. 1:10,000,000. Bonn-Bad Godesberg, Bonn.
  • H.Sjors. 1999. Swedish plant geography: The background: Geology, climate and zonation. Acta Phytogeogr. Suec. Uppsala: Opulus press, 84:5-14.
  • World Wildlife Fund. 2010. Scandinavian and Russian taiga: partial species list
Glossary

Citation

Hogan, C. (2012). Scandinavian and Russian taiga. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/51cbf5327896bb431f6b168b