Siberian Taiga Forest And Global Carbon Sink

The northern third of Asia, stretching from the Ural Mountains in the west to the Pacific coast into the east, is known as siberia. The southern border of Siberia is generally taken to be the Kazakh steppes in the southwest, the Altai and sayan Mountains in the south, and the Mongolian steppes in the southeast. This region occupies approximately 3,000,000 square miles (7,500,000 km2). The western third of Siberia is occupied by the Siberian lowland, stretching from the Urals to the Yenisei River. This low marshy area is drained by the Ob River and its tributaries, and it hosts agriculture, industry, and most of Siberia's human population in the wooded steppe. Eastern Siberia stretches from the Yenisei River to a chain of mountains including the Yablonovy, Stanovoy, Verkhoyansk, Kolyma, and Cherskogo Ranges. The eastern half of Siberia is an upland plateau, drained by the Vitim and Aldan Rivers. The Lena runs along the eastern margin of the region, and Lake Baikal, the world's deepest lake, is located in the southeast. Northeasternmost Siberia hosts a smaller plain on the arctic coast between the Lena and Kolyma Rivers, in the Republic of Yakutia (Sakha).

Siberia shows a strong zonation of vegetation, including a zone of tundra that extends inland about 200 miles (300 km) from the coast, followed by the taiga forest, a mixed forest belt, and the southern steppes. Siberia's taiga forest accounts for about 20 percent of the world's total forested land, covering about two-thirds of the region. This region accounts for about half of the world's evergreen forest and buffers global warming by acting as a large sink for carbon that otherwise could be released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. The forest and the rich soils derived from the decay of dead trees represents a very significant sink for global carbon. Much of the taiga forest is currently being logged at an alarming rate of loss of 12 million hectares per year. Much of this is being done by clear-cutting, where 90 percent of the timber is harvested, leading to increased erosion of the soil and runoff into streams. The effects of deforestation could be dramatic for global climate. With so much carbon stored in the taiga forest, both in the trees and in the peat and soils, any logging or development that releases this carbon to the atmosphere will increase global carbon dioxide levels, contributing to global warming. Acid rain and other pollution largely emitted from the coal, nickel, aluminum, and lead smelting plants in the west is causing additional loss of forest. Additionally, large tracts of forest are being torn up to explore for and extract oil, natural gas, iron ore, and diamonds.

See also accretionary wedge; Archean; Asian geology; climate change; convergent plate margin processes; craton; deformation of rocks; divergent plate margin processes; European geology; flysch; granite, granite batholith; greenstone belts; igneous rocks; large igneous provinces, flood basalt; mélange; Phanerozoic; plate tectonics; Proterozoic; structural geology; transform plate margin processes.

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