The Tundra

A cold, desolate biome with little biodiversity

Basic Information

The tundra is the coldest of all major biomes with permafrost earth and little precipitation. There are very few nutrients in the soil so most of the nutrients are recycled through the ecosystem. There are two types of tundras, the Arctic and the alpine. Arctic has forests and alpine is rocky and mountainous. The tundra is located at latitudes 55° to 70° North, including Northern Russia, Northern Canada, Northern Greenland, Northern Europe.

Vegitation in the Tundra

The tundra has cold, usually frozen ground which cannot sustain large healthy plants like trees. The main types of plants are mosses, lichens, grasses, and wildflowers. There is also the occasional shrub. Most of these plants are very hardy plants that can be covered with snow and not see sun for long periods of time. Mosses and lichens are great for this environment because of their hardiness and the soil in the tundra is very rocky. Grasses can grow in large amounts and have adopted deep root systems to be able to stay in the ground. The flowers are the same as grasses but instead of growing over large areas of ground, they use animals to move their seeds and plant it for them. Shrubs grow there now because as the earths temperature is slowly increasing, there is less permafrost, longer growing seasons so that only the hardiest of shrubs can grow there.

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Most animals in the tundra are primary consumers that can eat large amounts of grasses and flowers at a time and then rest. There are many small rodents and a few large mammals. One amazing predator/prey relationship is the Artic Hare and the Lynx. Both animals now have large paws to run fast on snow, their predator/prey relationship helped speed up that evolution. Also, packs of wolves will go through packs of Musk Ox to find the weak ones, they will then team up to take the musk ox down. Hawks will usually go after small arctic hares and the hares use shrubs to hide in and not be killed by the hawks. Lemmings, the creatures falsely believed to run off of cliffs en masse. are eaten by both wolves and hawks because of their large numbers and ability to be caught. Lemmings and Arctic hares eat the same foods, are eaten by the same thing, and live in very similar places, they compete for all three of these resources. Musk Oxen travel in packs so they cannot be picked off one by one by wolves. Mosquitos have evolved to replace the water in their bodies with glycerol, a natural anti-freeze so that they can survive under the snow. Caribou has developed longer fur to stand the cold and wider feet to walk on the slightly boggy parts of the tundra. Polar Bears have hollow hairs to trap heat and a large layer of blubber to do the same thing to protect against the cold.

Importance of the Biome and Threats

Major threats to the tundra are oil drilling, strip mining for metals, and pollution from pesticides and oil pipelines mess with the local organisms. It is a major carbon dioxide sink, which means that it takes in more carbon dioxide than it emits. The carbon dioxide is trapped in the permafrost. However, because of global warming, the permafrost has started to melt, releasing carbon dioxide into the air. Further increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. Increasing global warming by that much more. One endangered species is the the arctic fox. Another is the polar bear.


The tundra is very cold, usually 37 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and -20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. It is usually snow covered during the winter until the snow melts away and the permafrost ground is able to warm up just enough to support minor plant life like grasses and flowers. There is usually 6-10 inches of precipitation per year.