Ecology

Science Project Covering the Ecosystem

TAIGA BIOME

Ecosystem

The taiga biome is a beautiful place that is one of the largest biome-types in the world. It has many variations ranging from snowy pines in Alaska to sparse spruce forests in Russia and Asia. It is a terrestrial biome, or a habitat on land instead of in freshwater or marine ecosystems. As stated above, the taiga biome is a terrestrial ecosystem. It means that instead of it being marine (or in the ocean) or freshwater (as in rivers, ponds or lakes) it is mainly on land. The food sources vary from where the biome is located, but it is mainly grasses, rodents, deer/elk/moose and some birds.

Abiotic Factors

The abiotic factors are the nonliving parts of the ecosystem. In the taiga biome, there are many different types of flora to explore. Evergreen trees, or spruce, pine and rowan trees, grow in abundance and sometimes create a closed-off, dense canopy. Lichen and mosses grow on trees. The taiga biome is also a home for many types of berries, including the rasberry and cranberry. Mountains are a common landscape for taiga biomes, especially in Siberia or Russia. Rivers and small streams are quite prevalent.

Biotic Factors

We now know some of the producers and terrain of the taiga biome, now let's delve into some of the biotic factors , or the living things, of this biome

A large portion of the primary consumers are relatives of the deer. Moose, caribou and elk roam the forests and eat the grasses that grow there. Smaller, fuzzier creatures such as the vole, mountain hare and even the North American porcupine call this place home.

The secondary consumer assortment includes otters, foxes and a range of hawks and eagles. Otters will eat both underwater plants and fish that inhabit the rivers, so they are called "omnivores."

The tertiary animals, or the animals at the top of the food chain or web, are gray wolves, brown and grizzly bears and even the Siberian tiger! These animals do not need to fear being killed to be eaten, although that does not mean they will die peacefully. During hunts wolves will often have a rib or two broken-- and that's if they are lucky.

And, what gets every organism one way or the other, are the decomposers. They are bacteria or other small microscopic organisms that consume carcasses and waste for energy, not for food and definitely not for sport.

Climate/Food Source Changes and Impacts

The world as we know it is very delicate. The balance of predators and prey is so fragile that a simple change in climate or a change in an ancient food source could send it shattering. The main alterations that would affect the organisms and terrain of this biome would be a drop in humidty and, because of the drought, the loss of small prey.

Let us explore the drop in humidty first by explaining its importance. The humidity level of the taiga biome is a very key aspect for it because of its mountainous terrain. The thin air found in high places is bad enough, but when it becomes very dry it starts to take a toll on the flora and fauna. The soil is very rocky and isn't rich whatsoever, so the plants that need water the most start to wither away. When there is a dramatic elimination of vegetation the insects, rodents and deer-like animals go hungry. They will either flee to another, safer place-- mainly the deer, elk and moose-- or be wiped out by starvation. This will affect the secondary consumers and the tertiary consumers, who will then starve.

If the food source changes, because of the lack of water or for other reasons, the fauna will migrate elsewhere, looking for a better territory. But if the predators cannot keep up with the prey, or the prey stays, then they will adapt to their new, harsher surroundings.

Limiting Factors

The main limiting factor, or things that will keep the biome/ecosystem from prospering, has to be human interference. Humans could chop down the trees and send the small animals and deer scattering. That would not only leave the primary consumers homeless, but it would wreck the predators, leaving them stranded and hungry. It is happening as we speak, to make matters worse. People in Russia are cutting down trees and using them for lumber. They are clearing much of the land that the animals are using for burrows, dens and homes.

Competition

In the wild, there is so such thing as a linear food chain. Predators will eat more than one species. Some animals are hunted by more than one predator, too, so they become scarce. Because of that the food chain becomes sort of a food web, making many animals of the same species even hunt for the same food source.

Wolves, commonly found in the taiga biome, are an exemplary illustration of interspecific competition. They hunt in packs consisting of an alpha pair and several pups or loyal wolves. They hunt the migrating caribou and elk, picking on the laggards and sickened. Sometimes there will be more than one wolf pack in a region, and the two wolf packs will compete over the food supply. Because of their marked territories the packs will not delve very far into the other's for fear of becoming wounded, but sometimes they will go on raids. They must compete with each other to survive because food is scarce in the winter months, and in general.

An intraspecific example would be the artic fox. They compete with coyotes and sometimes even wolves to hunt down rabbits and other small rodents. They even have to battle with hawks, eagles and scavenger birds! Luckily rabbits breed quite quickly, but with that many different species a threat to it arctic foxes seem a bit pressed to get a meal. It is a never-ceasing circle of being the well-fed or the starving, and one day everyone kicks the bucket.

Relationships

In the wild there are a variety of different relationships animals have with one another, but they are all sorted out into three major categories: mutualism, commensalism and parasitism.
Mutualism is when both species benefit themselves, and it does not have to be an animal. Moss willl grow on the trees, thus protecting its bark, and in return it gets a place to cling onto and grow.
Commensalism is where one of the species benefits, but the other is not affected.The grizzly bear takes down the elk and eats it, but once he is full he will step aside and let the wolverine scurry in to also claim a leg to eat. Because the grizzly gets nothing in return that makes this relationship a commensalistic one.

An example of parasitism would be the wolves and the deer, where the wolves are benefited at the other's expense. The wolves prey on the elk and kill them for food, and the elk don't even get a second to pay their last respects-- if they knew what those were, that is.