Around the Block: Old Growth Taiga
Taiga taiga burning bright!
Roaming the taiga forests of Minecraft is a deeply relaxing experience. The ferns, the foxes, the... OW! Oh yes, the sweet berry bushes. But there’s one biome where the ancient evergreen trees reach even higher into the sky. It’s the old growth taiga, and it’s our biome of the month.
The first sighting players got of the old growth taiga biome was in 2013, in a tweet from Jens, and it was added to the game in the Update That Changed the World later that year – initially called “Mega Taiga”. Mega taiga then got renamed to giant tree taiga in 2018, and finally in late 2021 we renamed it again – to old growth taiga.
The name isn’t really important, though. What’s important is what you can find there. Most of the landscape is covered by magnificent spruce trees, many of which are 2x2 blocks wide. These enormous spruces sit in a soil of podzol and coarse dirt, dotted with mossy cobblestone boulders, mushrooms, sweet berry bushes, grass and ferns. One variant of the biome contains pointier pines, rather than standard spruce.
Wolves, foxes and rabbits roam between the trees, and you’ll also find many of the regular passive mobs – sheep, pigs, chicken and cows. This, combined with the widespread availability of wood and food makes it a great place to set up home. Unfortunately, you’ll also come across spiders, zombies, skeletons, creepers, and various other nasties at night. Keep an eye out!
In the real world, most forests are actively harvested for wood and there are very few places where evergreen trees have lain undisturbed for the centuries it takes for them to reach full size. Most of these untouched trees can be found in two countries – Canada and Russia, which both have large areas of forest without any human disturbance.
These old-growth forests tend to be a wild mix of large trees, dead trees – both standing and fallen – and plenty of debris on the forest floor. Many are vulnerable to forest fires, which is an increasing problem, though a few tree species actually require frequent surface fires to clear out the underbrush and free up valuable nutrients.
Most importantly, though, is the role that these ancient forests play in ecosystems. Old-growth forests are often home to many rare and threatened species, with high biodiversity. They also store huge amounts of carbon – both in the trees and below ground – making them a vital tool in preventing climate change.
So let’s try to keep them around, yeah?
- Duncan Geere