The Tundra Biome
By Jaydan Henderson
The Tundra Biome
Tundra is the coldest of all the biomes. Tundra comes from the Finnish word tunturia, meaning treeless plain. It is noted for its frost-molded landscapes, extremely low temperatures, little precipitation, poor nutrients, and short growing seasons. Dead organic material functions as a nutrient pool. The two major nutrients are nitrogen and phosphorus. Nitrogen is created by biological fixation, and phosphorus is created by precipitation. Tundra is separated into two types: arctic and apline.
Animals in the Tundra
One of the animals found in the tundra is a pika. A pika is a hamster type animal. It is 20cm long and is a cute, little, brown, fuzzy tan animal. The pika eats grass and herbs, therefore it is a herbivore. Many carnivores feed upon the pika. It survives by living in holes in the ground and storing grass, flowers, and herbs. This animal can also be found in grassland biome. It is mostly found in the tundras in North America.
There are many animals that live in the tundra. Some of these animals include caribou, Ermine, water birds, mosquitoes, polar bears, arctic fox, white wolves, grizzly bears, gray falcons, bald eagles, bumble bees, squirrels, Norway lemmings, shrew, and voles. Ptarmigan, ravens, snowy owls, arctichares, pikas, and pocket gophers are also found in this vast biome. Birds migrate from the tundra during the colder months. During winter you may not see a lot of animals there.
Another animal that is common in the tundra is a Norway lemming. This is a small, wide, fluffy, guinea pig type animal. It can grow to be 13-15 cm long. This animal also eats grass and it survives by feeding wen I can and staying away from predators. It can also be found in the grassland biome.
Finally polar bears live in the tundra region. They are big, fluffy, white bears that can grow 7 ¼ - 8 ¼ feet tall. They prey upon large and small mammals, fish, birds, berries and leaves. Polar bears are found in the coasts, tundra, living on shore line and ice floats.
The Diamond Leaf Willow
Another plant in this harsh biome is the Labrador Tea. The Labrador Tea has a bunch of red leaves that use chlorophyll and the sun to create heat and nourishment. This plant also has a hairy stem to keep warm. No animal eats the Labrador Tea. This plant is also only found in this biome. The Labrador Tea is in the middle of the bearberry and the Diamond leaf willow in population.
Pasque flower is a pretty tundra plant. It is a member of the Ranunculaceae family, which is Latin for little frog. The name was given to the family because a group of plants in this family grow where frogs live.
The Pasque flower has several stems that rise 6-8 inches off the ground. On each stem is one flower with 5-8 petals. The range of color in the petals is from dark lavender to almost white. In the center of the flower are yellow stamens. Below the flower, around the stem is a leaf covered in silky hairs, as is the rest of the plant. The fruit of the plant is a plum that is achenial, which means that one seed is attached to the ovary wall, like a strawberry seed.
Places in the Tundra
As you travel from Alaska's interior toward its northern or western coast, you'll see a dramatic transition, as boreal forests of spruce, birch, aspen, and cottonwood disappear from the landscape. In place of forest, low shrubs, mosses, sedges, and lichens blanket the mountainsides and valleys. In flat areas such as the coastal plains, the landscape is dotted with small lakes, or divided into strange geometric patterns. The country feels grand and limitless stretching to the horizons of the broad sky. This is Alaska's arctic tundra.
Arctic tundra is a landscape of amazing contrasts. View it from a distance, or visit in midwinter, and you might think it is barren. It's not. Though treeless and often bitter cold, Arctic tundra is an ecosystem of great beauty and abundance, shaped by the dramatic seasons of the far north.
One of the climatic conditions that give rise to tundra is cold air temperatures. But it's not just winter's cold that shapes this ecosystem. Rather, it's the chilly average temperatures which limit plant growth and encourage the formation of permafrost.
Why is Alaska's arctic so cold? During our northern hemisphere winter, the arctic regions of the Earth, including Alaska, are tilted away from the sun, receiving less sunlight and thus less solar energy (warmth). In summer, even though the northern hemisphere tilts toward the sun and days are extremely long (see "Day Length"), the sun's energy arrives at a low angle, filtered through thick atmosphere.
In Alaska's Arctic and near-Arctic, seasonal changes are dramatic. In midsummer, when the Earth's northern pole is tilted toward the sun, days are tremendously long-in fact, from the Arctic Circle north, the landscape can be bathed in sunlight 24 hours a day around the time of summer solstice. But as the Earth revolves around the sun towards winter, the pole tilts further and further from the sun; days shorten, and shorten-until midwinter, when, north of the Arctic Circle, there are days when the sun does not rise above the horizon at all.
Alaska's tundra gets very little snow or rain-it's sometimes called a "cold desert." Annual precipitation at Barrow, located on the tundra-covered Coastal Plain, is around 4 inches-far less than annual rainfall of the Mojave Desert.
Despite the low rainfall, though, Alaska's tundra is rich in wetlands. This is because of permafrost, which acts as an impermeable layer under the thin tundra soil, trapping moisture close to the surface. These conditions make arctic tundra a complex mosaic of wet and dry sites.