THE TAIGA, OR GREAT EVERGREEN FOREST OF SIBERIA 622. The world's largest northern forest belt of Asia—called the Taiga —stretches eastward from the Urals, on and on and on, like an evergreen sea, all the way to the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea. It is unbroken save for a few mountain ranges whose heights extend above the timber line. The Taiga is as large as the entire United States. Its nearest rival in size is the Great Northern Forest of North America, which, like the Eurasian Forest, lies between the tundra on the north and theland of wheat and oats, barley, rye, and potatoes on the south.
This cold Siberian forest, like the cold American forest (Sec. 348), is a vast expanse of evergreen, buzzing with mosquitoes in sum mer, and blanketed with snow for the many months of the long, cold winter. As in America, the wolf, the bear, and the fur hunter roam over its vast area. Like the American forest, it was scraped and dug by glaciers, and made rough and swampy. But in the winter it becomes smooth and level because the snow covers the roughness. Snow has always been a help to the lumber men of the north woods and to the fur hunter traveling on snowshoes. Look at the tem perature maps (Figs. 328, 329). What are the January temperature and the July temperature east of the Lena Valley? What is the difference between the two months? Is there any other place with as much difference between winter and summer temperature? What is the difference where you live? 623. A land.— The Siberian forest has no Gulf of Bothnia, no Gulf of Finland, and no White Sea, to which ships may come in summer to carry away wood. The Arctic ice pack is jammed against the Siber ian coast for mostof itsgreat length, and the trading ship comes not to such a place. On the southern edge of the forest some lumber is cut for the Russian farmers of central Siberia, but most of this forest, like the Great North Woods of America, lies as a vast reserve, awaiting the time when man can use it,—if it is not burned before that time.
624. Useless rivers. — It is a great misfortune that the Siberian rivers, those great log carriers of forest regions, flow north toward the land of ice and inhabited by man. In which part of such a stream does the ice break up first in summer? The loose ice, floating north, finally jams against the tightly frozen ice in the lower part of the streams and forms great ice dams, which cause the rivers to overflow during the spring and summer, and thus to flood large areas of forest and tundra.
625. south central part of this region has coal, and in an area of such great size, of which so little is known, we may expect discoveries of valuable metals. The southern and eastern parts have rocks that give promise of many mines. Much gold has already been mined on the upper Lena. If the ore is rich enough it can be mined anywhere in the forest or tundra, for now we know how to build railroads to such places.
626. The forest fire—a world problem.— The minerals will wait for men to find them, but fire often runs ahead of the lumberman and eats up the forests. This gives us in the skyscrapers of New York, London, Paris, and Rome to help keep the fires out of the forests of Siberia, Russia, Canada, Alaska, the Appalachians, and the Rockies.
one of the hardest problems we have,— to live in this world and leave it as good as we found it. If we remove the trees and grow food on all the good farming land we must take great care to keep forests pro ducing lumber on the land we do not want for farms. Nature takes two centuries to make some trees. A lumberman can cut a tree down in a few minutes. If forest fires occur, they may kill, in a few minutes, the forest that took two centuries to grow. So much damage of this kind has been done in a very short time that even Pennsylvania, a state, most of which should be forest (Sec. 293), is not able to furnish as much lumber as is used in the Pittsburgh district alone. The world will soon be facing a lumber famine, largely because of forest fires.
Every one needs wood in many forms, and the world will soon need the lumber of the great northern forests of America and Eurasia. Can these world resources be saved and used, or must they, too, burn? It will take work to save them. This is one of the many big problems that world trade has produced. Man must solve the problem of threatened lumber famine or his children will feel the keen, sharp want of wood. We must find some new ways of doing things so that the lumber-using farmers on the plains of Illinois, the plains of the Po, and the Dutch meadows, can join with their lumber-using city brothers