Tundra

By Noor Khan

Vitals of the Tundra

There are two types of tundra. The two types are arctic tundra and alpine tundra. In the northern hemisphere, surrounding the north pole, is where arctic tundra is located. It stretches downward towards the taiga. The alpine tundra is located on mountains of high altitude. Although the climate of the tundra is very low, there are living animals in these areas. There is also plant life in the tundra. Animals in the tundra include mountain goats, birds, elk, and sheep. Shrubs, reindeer mosses, and grasses can be found as well. Animals and plants are biotic factors of the tundra. There are also many abiotic factors such as the air, snow, temperature, humidity, and rainfall. These are abiotic factors because these are not living things.

Climate of the Tundra

The climate of tundra is very cold. These areas are very windy. The temperature is normally around 10°-20°F. The tundra is never warmer than 50°F. The winds of the tundra can be as fast as 100 mph. On average, the tundra receives 15-30 centimeters of rain each year. The growing season varies- in the arctic tundra it lasts 50-60 days and in the alpine tundra it lasts around 180 days.


The seasons in the tundra are very different from the seasons here. Summer lasts around 6-10 weeks and the sun shines 24 hours a day. The weather is warmer than usual and is around 35° to 50°F. This is when a layer of the permafrost melts and creates bogs and ponds. Winter happens during all of the time in the year that summer doesn't take up. During winter, the days get shorter and shorter and there are many weeks that the sun doesn't make an appearance. The temperatures are very low during winter. They are never higher than 20° and averages around -30° to -20°.

Plant Life on the Tundra

Plants that have adapted to the tundra weather are able to grow successfully in these areas. Permafrost takes up around 75% of the tundra. Permafrost is a large frozen layer of soil and dead plants, and when some of it melts, or water somehow saturates the area, plant life can increase when bogs and ponds are created. This also invites animals to live in the area. Plants must adapt to the weather because of the extreme cold and intense winds. The tundra is very dry as it doesn't get much rainfall. Sunlight is also very limited in this area.


Plants That Have Adapted to Tundra

There are many examples of plants that have adapted over time to live successfully in the tundra.

  • One is the bearberry, also called the foxberry. This plant isn't very tall, so wind does not affect it most of the time. The plant keeps warm with silky hairs that cover its thick bark. The bearberry is mainly found in areas with dry soils, such as the tundra.
  • Another plant is the pasque flower. It also has silky hairs on its stems and leaves to keep itself warm. It is also a low plant and keeps itself from the cold wind. The pasque flower grows on dry and sandy land.
  • Saxifrage, or tufted saxifrage, is also found in the tundra. This plant is also short and close to the ground so it stays away from winds. This plant grows well in cooler weather. It's roots go deep underground and store carbohydrates so that it can survive in the tundra.
  • Arctic moss also grows in the tundra. Arctic moss is an aquatic plant and grows at the bottom of freshwater lakes and in and around bogs in the tundra. This plant does not have roots, wood stems, or flowers. It grows slowly and lives for a long time. It stays safe from the cold, harsh winds because it is so close to the ground. Since it covers the ground, it keeps the ground warm and other plants can grow in that area.
  • Caribou moss is another plant that grows in the tundra. It is actually a lichen, not moss. Fungi and algae make up lichens. Lichens live for long times because they can survive without water. Without water, they dry up, but can come back to life and grow again once water is available. This plant, like the others, is close to the ground.

Animals in the Tundra

Animals in the tundra must be able to survive extreme cold temperatures and lack of (variety of) vegetation. They have to adapt to the dryness of the area and have strategic ways to stay alive.


Animals That Have Adapted to Tundra

  • The snowy owl lives in the tundra. This animal has a thick layer of feathers to keep it warm. These feathers also cover its feet.
  • The ermine is a weasel-like animal. Ermines are animals that shed coats. They have a brown coat during summer and a white coat during winter. The different coats provide different protection for the weather the ermine encounters.
  • Polar bears are found in the tundra. Polar bears have two layers of very warm fur to stay safe in the dangerously cold weather. Adult bears can overheat when running because of their very warm fur.
  • Grizzly bears are also found in the tundra. These bears have very thick fur in addition to multiple layers of fat to keep them warm.
  • Another animal adapted to the tundra is the harlequin duck, These ducks can swim really well due to their body shape and strong webbed feet. The feathers the duck has keeps it warm and lets it fly. The harlequin duck has an oil gland that produces oil that, when spread all across the body using its beak, makes the feathers waterproof.

Competition

There is some competition that goes on in the tundra. It occurs when two organisms are fighting for the same limited resource. One example is if there is an area that no animal has claimed, and a group of polar bears want it, but a group of grizzly bears also want it. Another example is Two grizzly bears fighting over prey. They both want the prey but it's only enough for one of them, so they compete for the prey.


Predation

Predation is when one organism captures and eats another organism. There are many examples of this everywhere including the tundra.


  • A snowy owl sees an animal fit for it to eat and it captures the animal and eats it.
  • A wolf sees a squirrel on a tree and manages to catch it. The wolf eats it.
  • A herd of musk oxen find an animal and stampede it to kill it and they all join together and eat the dead animal.
  • An arctic fox finds an ermine snacking on a squirrel. He kills the ermine and eats both the ermine and the remains of the squirrel.


Ecological Concerns

Global Warming

Global Warming is the biggest threat to the tundra. It causes the permafrost to melt and the water that accumulates raises ocean levels and it changes the niche of the area. It also shrinks the tundra biome. Global warming affects the animals that have already adapted to the environment. The melting permafrost is a problem because around 14% of the earth's carbon is stuck in the permafrost. When it melts, carbon releases.


Air Pollution

Air pollution is another concern for the tundra and the animals of the tundra. Smog clouds are created by pollution, and that affects lichens on the tundra. Lichens are a main source of food for the animals. When the lichens are contaminated, they can make the animals sick.


Endangered Animals in the Tundra

There are many endangered species in the world. Some of those animals are animals living in the tundra. The polar bear is endangered. It is endangered due to global warming limiting its prey. The musk ox used to be endangered, but has repopulated back to a number where it is not at risk.


Importance of the Tundra Biome

The tundra biome is important to the earth. It helps regulate the planet. It cools the warm air that travels over and sends it back to the equator. Tundra is the home to many animals and without the tundra they would not be alive.