Western Russia

By Zach Hanson

Weather

Western Russia has a humid continental climate, with a large part of the norther section of the region falling in a frigid climate as part of the Taiga biome. This means that the temperature in Western Russia has large seasonal differences. For example, the summers are generally very humid, and the winters are long and cold. The highest temperature ever recorded was 100.8 degrees Fahrenheit, and the lowest was -44 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature is cooler than in the United States. "Winterkill" is a problem for agriculture in Russia. "Winterkill" is the loss of crops due to weather-related causes. The summers are generally very humid, but cool. The temperature is usually in the 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit range during the summer, and the 20-10 degrees Fahrenheit range in the winter.


http://www.weather.com/weather/tenday/Moscow+RSXX0063:1:RS




Dominant Plants

40 percent of Northwestern Russia is part of the Taiga biome. This region is very cold, and consequently, contains mostly coniferous trees, or trees that bear cones. Pine and Fir trees dominate in Western Russia. Although these trees do not have any specific adaptations for Western Russia, they are the best fit for extreme climates, because they hold leaves all year. The leaves are waxy, which allows them to shed snow, yet retain water. The dense foliage of conifers allows for them to be resistant to harsh winds that could likely occur in northern regions, such as Western Russia. Since the seeds of conifers are contained in cones, they are not subject to the harsh conditions. In fact, they are protected by the cones even after the cone has finished growing. Lastly, conifer's branches are angled down on the trunk, allowing them to shed water easily in harsh climates with a lot of precipitation.

Dominant Animals

Surprisingly, the frigid climate of Northwestern Russia is rather diverse when it comes to animal life. The Taiga forest contains species ranging from brown bear to owls to muskrats. Muskrats were brought in from Canada, and can be categorized as an alien invasive species to Russia. Muskrats are able to thrive in Western Russia because humans try to eliminate their predators (Raccoon, Snakes, Fox, etc.) Also, they are able to survive in contaminated waters that other species would not be able to. Their ability to tolerate a range of factors in their habitat is what allows them to thrive in places such as Western Russia. Muskrats are generally trapped for their pelts in Western Russia. The further southern you travel in Western Russia, the more the wildlife begins to change. The broadleaf forests are home to species such as wild boar, minks, and wolves.


Geology

Western Russia is located on the East European Craton. The Ural Mountains, a mountain range in Western Russia, and one of Earth's oldest mountain ranges, are the geographic feature that shows the end of the craton. The Urals were formed by a collision between Laurussia (Euramerica), and Khazakhstania, two super-continents. For this reason, some of the oldest rock on Earth, from the Paleozoic period, can be found in the Urals. The rock types included in this craton are primarily metamorphic, and igneous rock. The Urals are rich in valuable minerals and ores. On the western ridges of the Urals, dolomite, limestone, and sandstone form the sediments. These sediments are the remains of ancient seas.


Demographic Information

The entire population of Russia is approx. 144 million people. Approx. 72 percent of which, live in European (Western) Russia. Only about 25 percent of Russia lies in Europe, and is considered "Western Russia", which means that Western Russia is much more densely populated than the Asian part. Furthermore, approx. 10 percent of the entire country's population lives in the capital city of Moscow, and approx. 5 percent of the total population live in St. Petersburg, both of which lie in Western Russia. 81 percent of the total population is comprised of ethnic Russians. Other ethnicities such as Tatars, Ukrainians, and Bashkir, and other less prominent ethnicities make up the remaining 19 percent. 7.11 percent of the land in Russia is arable.


Agriculture

Almost all of Russia's agricultural production comes from European Russia. Winter wheat and spring barley are the most common of crops in European Russia. Many farmers use a system of crop rotation in order to keep soil fertile and reduce soil erosion. Two schemes of crop rotation are commonly used (a 2-crop rotation and a 4 or more-crop rotation). The rotation cycle generally takes 6 years, including 2 years in a row of wheat, and one year of of fallow, a year where no crop is planted. These cycles are very important to agriculture in European Russia, because only a small percentage of land is arable, and therefore must be kept fertile for as long as possible. Since European Russia has cold and long winters, winter-kill can kill varying amounts of crop. It is extremely unpredictable and can also result in the soaking of fields, consequently leading to an increase in soil erosion. Industrial agriculture is responsible for a majority of production, however, smaller private farms play an increasing role from year to year. A lot of fertilizer is used on European Russian farms. Such practices can lead to large amounts of runoff.

Overall, agriculture in Western Russia is sustainable in the fact that it includes poly-cultures and crop rotation to keep soil sustainable and fertile. However, increasing use of fertilizers is leading to large amounts of runoff which is not sustainable. In order to counteract such problems, European Russia should look to GMOs to decrease the need for artificial fertilizers. In addition, European Russia should look for more variety in crops. Even though they use a good system of rotation, wheat and barley dominate the agricultural industry and only a few other crops make up a significant percentage of production. European Russia is on the right track by turning to smaller, private farms, but they could accelerate the process by subsidizing smaller farms, making it easier for the to compete with the larger commercial farms.



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