The boreal forest, also known as taiga or coniferous forest, is found between approximately 50° and 60° north latitude in most of Canada, Alaska, Russia, and northern Europe. Boreal forests are located above a certain elevation (and below high elevations where trees cannot grow) in mountain ranges throughout the Northern Hemisphere.
This biome is characterized by cold, dry winters and short, cool, wet summers. Annual precipitation is 40 cm to 100 cm (15.7 to 39 in) and generally occurs in the form of snow. Because of the low temperatures, there is relatively little evaporation.
Long, cold winters in the boreal forests have meant that cold-tolerant cone plants dominate. These are evergreen. The boreal forest (taiga) has low plants and conifers. Low-growing plants such as lichens and grasses are common on the tundra. Conifers like pine, spruce, and fir retain their needle-like leaves year-round.
Evergreen trees can photosynthesize earlier than deciduous trees in spring because the sun requires less energy to heat a needle-shaped leaf than a broadleaf. Evergreen trees grow much more rapidly than deciduous trees in the boreal forest.
Besides, soils in boreal forest regions tend to be acidic with little available nitrogen. Leaves are a nitrogen-rich structure, and deciduous trees need to produce a new set of these nitrogen-rich structures every year. Therefore, conifers that retain nitrogen-rich needles in a nitrogen-limiting environment may have had a competitive advantage over broadleaf deciduous trees..
The net primary productivity of boreal forests is lower than that of temperate and tropical forests. The aboveground biomass of boreal forests is high because these slow-growing tree species are long-lived and accumulate stagnant biomass over time. Biodiversity is lower than in temperate forests and tropical rainforests. The boreal forests lack the layered forest structure seen in tropical rainforests or, to a lesser extent, temperate forests. The structure of a boreal forest is usually just a layer of trees and a layer of soil. When conifer needles are dropped, they decompose more slowly than broad leaves; therefore, fewer nutrients are returned to the soil to fuel plant growth.
Dominant wildlife: predators like lynx and timber wolves and members of the weasel family; small herbivorous mammals; moose and other large herbivores; beavers; songbirds and migratory birds.