Arctic Tundra

Sadie Texer

What is it?

The word "tundra" comes from the Finnish word tunturi, which means treeless plain. Frost-molded landscapes, extremely low temperatures, little precipitation, low nutrients, and short growing seasons are characteristics of the biome. The two major nutrients present in this biome are phosphorus, which is from precipitation, and nitrogen, by biological fixation.

Where is it?

The Arctic Tundra is located almost entirely in the Northern Hemisphere. It is also between two other major biomes, the taiga and the ice caps. The Arctic Tundra encircles the north pole and extends south to the coniferous forests of the taiga. It is also found across northern Alaska, Canada, and Siberia.


There are two main season: the summer and the winter. During the summer, the sun is present almost 24 hours a day, but it only warms the temperature to about 3-12 degrees Celsius. In the winter, the sun can be gone for weeks, which causes the average temperature to be around -28 to -70 degrees celsius. The average precipitation is 6-10 inches, which is primarily in the form of snow. A layer of permafrost is always present in the soil which decreases biodiversity.


Because of the extreme temperatures, most birds and mammals only use the Arctic Tundra as their summer home. However, the Brown Bear, Muskox, and Arctic Wolf live there year round. These animals have to find a way to stay warm in the extreme climate conditions in the long winter months.

In the summer months, he Brown Bear eats almost anything it can find, and stores it as a layer of fat that keeps it insulated during the winter hibernation. This fat is slowly converted to energy that is vital to the survival of the Brown Bear during its inactive period.

The Muskox adapts to the cold by growing a short and a long layer of fur. Air is trapped in the short layer of fur and is warmed by body heat, which acts as insulation. The long fur protects the Muskox from wind and water. Along with its fur, the Muskox also has large, hard, and sharp hooves that help break the think layers of ice in the winter to get the water underneath.

Arctic Wolfs has small ears, which decreases their surface area to loose heat from. They also have a double layer of fur, just like the Muskox, that is also camouflaged. Along with their fur, they have a thick layer of body fat, like the Brown Bear, and fur on their paws.


Only plants with shallow root systems can grow in the Arctic Tundra because of the layer of permafrost in the soil. This permafrost layer is only gone for about 50-90 days during the year. Mosses, lichens, low-growing shrubs, and grasses are some of the only 1,700 plants able to survive in this cold environment.

Plants tend to grow close together to prevent damage from the harsh winds that blow bits of ice and for insulation. Plants have also adapted by gaining the ability to grow under a layer of snow and carrying out photosynthesis in extremely cold temperatures.

Food Chain

Producers: grasses, lichens, and mosses

1st Consumer (Herbivore): muskox and arctic hare

2nd Consumer (Carnivore): arctic foxes and brown bears

3rd Consumer (Omnivore): snowy owls, arctic foxes, and polar bears

4th Consumer: humans who hunt for fur

Musk Oxen vs. Arctic Wolves

Human Impacts

Many hunters hunt for muskox, polar bear, and brown bear fur, which is putting these animals in danger. This overhunting, along with global warming, is a major threat to the Arctic Tundra. Global warming melts glaciers and permafrost areas, which threatens the plant species that have adapted to living in this cold environment. Pollution also harms the ozone layer which exposes this biome to ultraviolet lights, which can harm the plant and animal species in this area.


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