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Exploring the Taiga: Russia's Frozen Forest

The taiga (from a Mongolian word meaning "cold jungle") is the world's largest ecosystem, covering most of northern Russia, from the Ural mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Together with the Brazilian rain forest, the Russian taiga is the major source of oxygen in the planet. The fact that is taiga is mostly unexplored and untouched by human development has contributed to its preservation. The area is extremely susceptible to fire, however, and large sections of the taiga have been lost to the flames throughout the years.

The taiga has a harsh continental climate, with a temperature range of almost 85 degrees C between summer and winter. Summers are short and humid, with frequent rains. Winters are long (eight months or more), with heavy snowfall and temperatures that can reach -60 degrees C. In the northernmost sections of the taiga, ice and snow remain on the ground for most of the year.

Since few species of plants or flowers can survive the harsh winter conditions, coniferous trees like pine and douglas fir are the predominant vegetation in the taiga. Animals, however, have adapted much better. Large herbivorous mammals such as black bears hibernate during most of the winter to compensate for the lack of food, but carnivorous animals, including the siberian tiger, foxes, lynxes, and wolves, survive the winter by predating on rodents and other small animals.

Certain parts of the taiga can be traveled to by special arrangement with professional guides, who can offer trekking and sightseeing tours. This are highly involved trips that are often expensive and demanding, but that will leave anybody participating with a sense of wonder that will last forever.


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