A vast expanse of land with no trees and freezing temperature, tundra is inhabited by very few living organisms. In this ScienceStruck article, we will put forth some interesting facts to highlight the peculiarity of this biome.
Tundra is a vast permafrost plain, which is predominantly characterized by the absence of trees. The word tundra in itself is derived from a Finnish word tunturi, meaning treeless plains. Its claim to fame is the fact that it is the coldest among the various biomes of the world, but beyond the freezing conditions, there exist several facts about this biome which make it one of the most interesting components of the planet.
Basically, tundra biome is classified into three categories ..
- The Arctic tundra, which encompasses the vast areas of northern Russia and Canada.
- The Antarctic tundra, comprising Antarctica and other islands in the vicinity.
- The Alpine tundra, which is spread across the mountain ranges in America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
While the Alpine tundra is an exception as far as permafrost is concerned, its high altitude makes it impossible for trees to survive, and hence, the area is devoid of trees.
Facts about Tundra Biome
Tundra is one of the coldest places on the planet, with an average temperature in the range of −10 to 20 °F. It does experience a short summer between May and July, but the marginal rise in the temperature during this period provides little relief. The temperature in this biome seldom crosses the 50 °F mark.
At just about 10 inches or less, the amount of precipitation tundra receives every year is also very low. Cold winds are quite common, and at times, they blow copious amount of snow in the air, thus causing virtual blindness referred to as ‘whiteouts’, which can last for several days.
The vegetation in tundra is dominated by dwarf shrubs, grass, moss, and lichen. The plant species found in this biome include the reindeer moss, Labrador tea, Arctic willow, tufted saxifrage, diamondleaf willow, bearberry, and pasque flower.
Tundra plants have developed certain adaptations to survive in this biome. Most of these plants are short, which ensures that they don’t get damaged by strong winds. Similarly, the red pigmentation, which is seen in several plants in tundra, helps them to absorb more sunlight than their conventional green counterparts.
The list of tundra animals is considerably long and has to its credit prominent species like polar bears, arctic foxes, grizzly bears, harlequin ducks, musk oxen, caribous, and snowy owls. Like plants, even these animals have adapted themselves to survive the extreme weather.
These animals sport a thick fur coat, which acts as their natural defense against cold, and broad, furry feet, which makes it easier for them to walk on the snow. Most of these animals either migrate or hibernate during the freezing winters.
- Tundra experiences summer from May to July. During this period, the Sun shines throughout the day and even at midnight. The phenomenon is referred to as the Midnight Sun.
- The only tree that grows in the harsh climate of the Arctic tundra is the dwarf willow, a tiny creeping willow with an average height of only 4 inches.
- When the sea in tundra freezes as a result of extremely low temperature, the salt in it forms crystals. These crystals are referred to as ice flowers.
- A major carbon sink, tundra plays a vital role in keeping the global temperatures stable by absorbing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
- Unlike the short growing season in the Arctic and Antarctic tundra, the Alpine tundra has a long growing season, spanning well over six months.
Despite the characteristic freezing conditions of tundra, some cold-blooded insects and reptiles have managed to make it their home by resorting to physical and behavioral adaptations. One of the best examples of this will be the common European adder, which is found near the Arctic circle.