The Boreal Forest Food Web

Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

This lesson is on the boreal forest food web. In this lesson, we will go over what a food web is, what a boreal forest is and where they are located. Then, we will take a look at a specific food web for the boreal forest.

Black Bears Roam

Imagine yourself as a black bear. Roaming through the woods, foraging for berries, as well as on the lookout for delicious caribou and moose. You feel at ease, knowing you are the ultimate predator in this region. The forest floor is soft under your feet, filled with moss and pine needles. Birds chirp above you, and small rodents scatter as you walk by. What is this beautiful place you live in? How do all these creatures live together? These are the questions we'll answer today as we investigate the boreal forest, and learn more about top predators like black bears and their habitat.

Two black bears walk through the forest.
Black bears in the woods

What Is a Food Web?

A food web is a diagram showing the transfer of energy between species. Energy is transferred as food, so a food web shows who eats who in an ecosystem. Food webs are organized into layers called trophic levels. The bottom trophic level is the producers. Producers are organisms that make their own food. These are usually green plants, but can also be algae, microscopic organisms or bacteria. Primary consumers only eat producers. In the boreal forest, primary consumers are vegetarians, or herbivores. Secondary consumers eat primary consumers. Tertiary consumers are at the top of the food web and eat both primary and secondary consumers, keeping those populations in balance.

Trophic levels in the food web.
trophic levels in the food web

What Is the Boreal Forest?

The boreal forest is also known as the taiga, and are the Northern most forests in the world. They extend through North America in Canada and Greenland through Northern Europe and Asia. Coniferous trees, or trees that have needles and pine cones, fill the landscape.

Coniferous trees in the boreal forest.
coniferous trees

The temperatures can range to -40 Fahrenheit in the winter, which lasts for up to nine months in the boreal forest. Summers are short and the highest temperatures only reach the low 70s. Despite the cold temperatures, the boreal forest is home to many plants and animals.

Boreal Forest Food Web

The producers in the boreal forest are mainly coniferous trees. These trees shed pine needles, creating a soft bed for moss and fungi to grow on. Small shrubs and grasses also provide energy for the food web as producers. The primary consumers are small mammals such as rabbits, voles, mice, shrews and other rodents. Large grazing animals also act as primary consumers. These animals include caribou, reindeer, moose and deer.

Caribou graze in the boreal forest.

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