The Tundra

By Austin

A Cold Desert

The tundra, like a cold desert, is known for its limited biodiversity, general lack of precipitation, and its permanently frozen layer of subsoil called permafrost. Tundras can be organized into two categories: arctic, and alpine. Arctic tundras are located in the northern hemisphere and Antarctica, while alpine tundras are located on mountains at high altitudes where trees cannot grow.

The Significance of the Tundra

The tundra plays an important role in weather and temperature regulation around the world. When warm air rises from tropical zones, it is cooled by the tundra, and moves toward the equator. The tundra is also a winter home for many keystone bird species.

Abiotic Factors

Biodiversity in the tundra is low compared to most other biomes. The tundra receives 6-10 inches of rain per year. This is less than most deserts. Tree roots cannot penetrate the layer of permafrost, and the tundra is too cold and windy for many species of plants and animals.
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Biotic Factors

Despite harsh conditions, there are around 1700 species of plants, 48 species of land mammals, and over 100 species of birds that live in tundras. The plants and animals that do live there have to be very well adapted to their environment to survive.


Examples of Adaptations:

For example, a brown bear must hibernate during the winter because there is less food. It eats as much as it can during the summer to store up fat for the winter. Not only does the fat keep the bear warm, but it is converted into energy during hibernation.


Plants in the tundra have adapted to low and close together. This protects them from strong winds. Some plants, such as the prairie crocus (picture top left), have furry coatings to help keep warm. Others produce cup-shaped flowers that direct more of the sunlight to the center of the flower, keeping the plant warmer than the air around it.

Food

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This example of a food chain shows low-growing plants as primary producers, a moose as a primary consumer, a grizzly bear as a secondary consumer, and an arctic fox as a tertiary consumer.

Human Impacts

Three negative human impacts on the tundra include invasive species, the use of toxic substances, and air pollution.


One invasive species, the American beaver has been introduced to several countries, competing with native populations. Their dams can cause flooding, damaging forests and towns.


Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are a concern in the Arctic because they move into the atmosphere and oceans, and accumulate in food that people eat, such as whale fat. Arctic indigenous people have a daily intake of toxic substances up to ten times the tolerable amount.


Air pollution leads to smog, which poisons lichens. Many herbivores in the tundra consume these poisoned moss and lichens. This is bad for animals, and the humans that consume them.

Tundra Biome

Bibliography


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Methane bursts from frozen tundra. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2016, from http://www.nature.com/news/2008/081203/full/news.2008.1275.html


Polar Bear. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2016, from http://www.tundraanimals.net/guide/polarbear.html


Polar Bear - National Wildlife Federation. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2016, from https://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Library/Mammals/Polar-Bear.aspx


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Tundra Food Chain Pictures. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2016, from http://cammyscomiccorner.com/photowfd/tundra-food-chain-pictures


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