How Microbes Shape the Biodiversity of Taiga Forests

How Microbes Shape the Biodiversity of Taiga Forests


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  • Source: Microbioz India

  • Date: 17 Sep,2023

The taiga, also known as the boreal forest, is a biome (major living zone) of vegetation found in northern circumpolar forested regions that is characterized by long winters and moderate to high annual precipitation. Taiga is predominantly made up of cone-bearing needle-leaved or scale-leaved evergreen trees. The phrase “taiga” which means “land of the little sticks” in Russian, refers to all of Russia’s northern forests, particularly those in Siberia.

Origin of taiga forest

Representative image of taiga forest

The Pleistocene Ice Age, which ended 11,700 years ago, led to the displacement of today’s taiga species due to continental glaciers in Europe, Asia, and North America. These conditions included hyperarid and extremely cold environments in unglaciated areas up to 30° N latitude. Despite this, taiga species in Europe and North America began to migrate north as the glaciers receded approximately 18,000 years ago. The forest then moved slowly and steadily northward throughout eastern and central North America.

From the Pacific to the Ural Mountains in Russia, spanning 3,600 miles, lies the biggest area in the world – the taiga. Once, glaciers had claimed it all.

Permafrost, a layer of permanently frozen soil, is frequently present in the earth beneath the taiga. In some places, the bedrock can be found directly underneath the earth. Permafrost and rocks both hinder water from evaporating from the topsoil. This produces muskegs, which are small, shallow bogs. Due of the moss, low grasses, and occasionally even trees that cover them, muskegs might appear to be solid ground. However, the surface is genuinely soggy and moist.

Types of Microbial Life in taiga forest(Bacterial and fungal communities)

Bacterial & Fungal Communities in Taiga forest: Representative image

Bacterial communities in taiga forest:

As a result of the needle-like leaves from coniferous trees decomposing, the soil in the taiga is typically acidic. Here, acidophilic bacteria, which flourish in acidic environments, are frequently observed. These bacteria are essential for the nitrogen and carbon cycles in the cycling of nutrients.

Fungal communities in taiga forest:

In the taiga, fungi are involved in the decomposition of organic debris and create symbiotic partnerships with trees to help them absorb nutrients.


The soil food web includes single-celled eukaryotic creatures like protozoa that frequently feed on bacteria and add another degree of nutrient cycling.


These fungi-like bacteria perform a crucial role in the breakdown of difficult organic materials like cellulose and lignin.


Cyanobacteria are important for nitrogen fixing and are found in water bodies in the taiga.


Algae, which are common in snow and water bodies in the taiga, contribute to primary production and serve as a food supply for larger creatures.


Archaea also exist in taiga habitats and are believed to take part in a number of metabolic cycles, despite little being understood about their function.

Roles in Ecosystem Functioning


Although decomposition is slowed down by the cold climate, bacteria convert decaying organic matter into nutrients that can be recycled back into the ecosystem.

Nutrient Cycling:

Microbes assist in the cycling of important elements including carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus through a variety of metabolic activities.

Soil Formation and Structure:

Microbes influence the physical composition and fertility of the soil.


Some microorganisms interact mutualistically with plants, assisting them in absorbing nutrients or even defending them from viruses.

Primary Production:

Microbial life frequently accounts for a sizeable amount of primary production in aquatic habitats in the taiga.

Climate Regulation:

Microbes may contribute to or absorb carbon, which has an indirect effect on climate change.

Microbes and biodiversity of taiga forest

Particularly when it comes to flora and bigger fauna, the biodiversity of the taiga, or boreal forest, is sometimes viewed as being less diversified than that of tropical or temperate environments. However, the diversity of microbial life can be incredibly intricate. The taiga forest’s distinct microbial diversity contributes significantly to the health and function of the ecosystem.

Roles in Biodiversity Maintenance

Nutrient Cycling:

Microbial diversity contributes to nutrient cycling in the soil, ensuring that plants and other creatures have access to a variety of nutrients.

Soil Health:

Numerous microorganisms contribute to the preservation of soil fertility and structure, which sustains a wide variety of plant species and their offspring.

Disease Regulation:

A diverse microbial ecosystem can aid in the suppression of soil-borne illnesses that might otherwise have a negative impact on plant populations.

Ecosystem Resilience:

The taiga ecosystem can be made more resilient overall by having a biodiverse microbial community, which enables it to recover more quickly from disturbances like fires or insect epidemics.

Climate Change Mitigation:

There is a substantial carbon sink in the boreal forest. This function is supported by a diverse microbial community, which has an effect on biodiversity worldwide.

FAQs on taiga forest

Tell me about taiga biome ?

Compared to other terrestrial ecosystems at lower latitudes, the taiga has fewer species of nearly all major taxonomic groupings of animals and plants. This is consistent with the observed diversity gradient, in which the number of species decreases from lower to higher latitudes.

Tell me about taiga animals?

The taiga is home to a wide variety of species. All animals need to have good cold tolerance. During the icy winter, taiga-native birds typically move south. The majority of small animals that inhabit the floor are rodents. Many raptors, including owls and eagles, hunt these creatures from the taiga’s trees. The world’s largest deer species, the moose, can survive in the chilly taiga. Moose are herbivores, much like other deer. They prefer the aquatic vegetation that grows on the bogs and streams of the taiga.

Tell me about taiga plants & fungi?

Taigas have dense forest cover. Spruce, pine, and fir trees, as well as other conifers, are widespread. Broad leaves are replaced by needles on coniferous trees, and the seeds are enclosed in sturdy, protected cones. Conifers never lose their needles, unlike deciduous trees in temperate woods, which lose their leaves in the winter. Because of this, conifers are also referred to as “evergreens.”

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