Boreal Ecology, Studies in Biology, No. 91.

William 0. Pruitt, Jr.

Department of Zoology,
The University of Manitoba,
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
R3T 2N2




Pruitt, W.O. 1978. Boreal Ecology, Studies in Biology, No. 91. Edward Arnold, Ltd. London. 73 pp.



As the world's population continues its dizzy upward spiral man increasingly invades ecological associations that are farther removed from the so-called human optimum, the temperate zones. Just as voles and lemmings are restricted to optimum habitat areas when their populations are high, so the human population is now spilling over into more northern regions. Temperate-zone man is encountering conditions new to his experience. Thus Boreal Ecology is a timely subject.

Boreal means simply 'northern' and is a relative term used in distinction to austral or southern. Perhaps a good ecological definition of the boreal regions is: those where snow cover affects animals and plants or where living organisms have evolved adaptations to snow.

Because of the frequent juxtaposition of 'boreal' and 'coniferous' when describing the taiga one should be alert not to restrict the meaning of boreal to association with coniferous forest vegetation. Remember that the tundra is more 'boreal' than is the 'boreal forest'.

Many of the ideas presented here were first encountered or were honed by visiting lecturers to my course in Boreal Ecology over the past fifteen years, or by the students themselves in discussions or laboratory and field projects. My wife, Erna, has given many valuable ideas and critical comments. Shirley Lowry transcribed tapes of classroom discussions and typed the manuscript. Wolf Heck made the drawings and photographs. To all, I am grateful.

Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1978.


Table of Contents:

General Preface to the Series


1. Tundra, taiga and other northern words.

Arctic; Subarctic; Tundra; Low Arctic and High Arctic; Taiga; Forest-tundra; Conclusion.

2. Radiant energy and light:

Radiant energy; light; The effect of atmospheric moisture on radiant energy; Seasons.

3. Water, soil and permafrost.

Water; soil; permafrost.

4. Bioclimate:

Taiga; tundra.

5. Characteristics of boreal vegetation.

Adaptations; tundra; forest-tundra; taiga.

6. Boreal Animals:

Insect; Amphibians and reptiles; birds and mammals; schools of thought on boreal endotherm adaptation.

7. Ecosystems and foodwebs (food chains).

8. Human utilization of boreal regions.

Pre-contact boreal man; Contact and exploitation. Conclusion.

9. Research methods and procedures peculiar to boreal regions.




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