Garrison Ramey

Vitals of the Arctic Tundra

Areas that have arctic tundra include: northern Alaska, northern Canada, Greenland, and
northern Russia. When the subsoil beneath the surface of earth is frozen it is called permafrost. Since permafrost is part of the tundra until summer, it makes it impossible for trees to root down into the ground. Another characteristic of the tundra is that is receives very little precipitation and can reach frigid temperatures.


The tundra is a bleak and treeless place. It is cold through all months of the year. Summer is a brief period of milder climates when the sun shines almost 24 hours a day. It has been called "the land of the midnight sun". But even the sun can't warm the tundra much. The short summer lasts only 6 to 10 weeks. It never gets any warmer than 45 or 50° F. The warmer weather causes a layer of permafrost, ice that never goes away in the ground, to melt, creating bogs and shallow lakes that don't drain.

Plant Life

Plants need warmth and sunlight to grow and reproduce. In the Arctic tundra, warmth and sunlight are in short supply, even in the summer. The ground is frequently covered with snow until June, and the Sun is always low in the sky. Arctic plants have a very short growing season. However, in spite of the severe conditions and the short growing season, there are approximately 1,700 kinds of plants that live in the Arctic tundra. Some of the plants that live in the Arctic tundra include mosses, lichens, low-growing shrubs, and grasses. Lichens adapt to the tundra by not needing soil to be able to grow. The moss adapts by being able to absorb moisture and minerals from the soil. All of the plants are adapted to sweeping winds and disturbances of the soil. Plants are short and group together to resist the cold temperatures and are protected by the snow during the winter. They can carry out photosynthesis at low temperatures and low light intensities


Some examples of animals that live in the arctic tundra would be the arctic fox, polar bears, the arctic hare, caribou, and the snowy owl. The Arctic Fox has short ears and a short,round body with a thick coat to minimize the amount of skin exposed to the frigid air. Caribou are well adapted to living in the tundra with thick fur and skin that enable them to enter frigid rivers while migrating. The polar bear's coat and skin are adapted to absorb sunlight and retain heat. Arctic Hares have large hind feet that enable them to move very quickly across the snow. They also have claws that help them dig through the snow when looking for mosses or other vegetation to eat. Snowy owls have a thick layer of feathers on their body as well as their feet to help them survive in the tundra. Grass is eaten by caribou, caribou is then eaten by the arctic wolf, and finally the arctic wolf is eaten by the polar bear. A musk ox's diet consists of plants such as sedges and grasses, while a caribou's is made of berries, grass and sedge. When food is hard to find musk ox and caribou will have some competition trying to get something to eat. Overall in the tundra, there is not a lot of competition because the tundra is so big and not many animals can survive the harsh climate.

Ecological Concerns

The vast wilderness associated with the tundra contains certain species of animals that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. This is attractive to hunters, who have been coming to the tundra region for many decades. Over-hunting is a major problem here and has led to a number of species being added to the endangered species list. Moose, wolves and arctic foxes are some examples. To help resolve this problem, there has been a restriction placed on the hunting of many species in the tundra. The tundra is globally important because it creates the biodiversity of species on earth.

Cool Fact

The word Tundra means "Tree less plain" and the tundra is known as the second most deadly environment in the world.