The tundra biome is a large, treeless biome where the soil is frozen. They support some of the coldest and most severe environments. Most tundra regions exist near the north pole. Temperatures range from -34º C (-29º F) in the winter to 12º C (54º F) in the summer. However, they receive very little precipitation and are the second driest biome after deserts.
Types of Tundra
The two main types of tundra are alpine and arctic. Alpine regions are in mountainous, high altitude areas. They sustain limited life because of thin air and other harsh conditions. Arctic regions are mostly in the north, and they have short growing seasons. Snow sometimes remains on the ground all year-round in the arctic tundra.
Global warming has greatly affected the arctic circle, where most regions of the tundra biome are. Because of warmer temperatures, permafrost levels have decreased. Permafrost is soil that remains frozen throughout the year, and it is what distinguishes tundras from all other biomes. Permafrost contains around 14 percent of the earth’s carbon. When it melts, the carbon releases into the air, which alters the environment and life in these areas.
Life in the Tundra Biome
The tundra biome supports life suited for cold and dry climates. Common plant life includes moss, lichen, and grasses. These plants must live low to the ground and close together to survive the harsh climates. This is because permafrost prevents trees from rooting, making small shrubs the primary vegetation. Summer’s warm temperatures cause much of the region’s snow to melt. This brings a spurt of life to the area.
In the winter, freezing temperatures force animals to hibernate and burrow into the insulated ground. Animals such as the arctic fox, polar bear, and snowy owl have to adapt to these winter conditions. For this reason, most animals have larger bodies and shorter legs to keep insulated. Others have a double layer of feathers of fur to keep warm. Some have white coats to blend in with the snowy environment. Many of these animals feed on low lying plants and insects. As a result, some insects spend their entire life buried in the ground for shelter.