All About the Tundra

Description

Location

The tundra biome is about 3 million square miles long and covers about 20% of the earth’s surface. The tundra biome is located all over the Northern Hemisphere–from Alaska to Northern Canada to edges of Greenland to Northern Scandinavia, and to northern Siberia and Russia. It is even found in Alaska here in the United States! To be specific, the latitudes of which the tundra are between 55 degrees-75 degrees N.

Characteristics

The most distinctive characteristic of tundra soil is its permafrost, a permanently frozen layer of ground. 

The term tundra actually comes from the Finnish word tunturia, which means treeless plain, which is fitting seeing how few trees exist in the tundra.

Soil Conditions

The soil in the tundra is unique because the subsoil zone is permanently frozen. The frozen layer of soil does not allow plant roots to penetrate deep into the ground. The permafrost also does not allow for the penetration of water. The soil above the permafrost layer is soggy during the summer and forms bogs. Tundra soil is not very nutrient-rich. 

Climate Conditions

The tundra has a very harsh climate. In fact, most of the area remains barren because of it. Its winters last around 8-10 months and the summers are cool and extremely short. Also, because a lot of it is located within the northern pole, a lot of the tundra receives alternating 6 month periods of light and dark. This is also contributes to why the tundra receives cold weather; at it’s degree of latitude the sun’s rays end up hitting the region obliquely, which causing less heat. To expand upon the harshness of the tundra, the summer season is at most 10 weeks and the temperature never rises above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, the tundra is an unusually cold and dry climate. Precipitation totals 6-10 inches of rain a year, which includes melted snow. This is almost as little as the world’s driest deserts. 

The graph below shows the precipitation on Alberta, Canada for a month.

preciprussia

The graph below shows the monthly temperatures of Alberta, Canada for a month.

temprussia.gif

Plants and Animals

1) Arctic Moss

arctic moss

The arctic moss is very common in the tundra. The most unique thing about arctic moss is that it grows in freshwater arctic lakes. It found growing on the bottom of tundra lake beds and in and around bogs and fens. It is a bryophyte  (which all mosses are). The arctic moss grows less than a centimeter a year, which aids it in living a very long life.

2) Bearberry

bearberry

Bearberry is a low growing evergreen, that bloom from March to June. They do not solely exist in the tundra biome,  but are quite numerous there. They can be found in dry, relatively nutrient-poor soils. This means bearberry can be found in Oregon, Washington, and Montana as well as Alaska and Greenland, just to name a few.

3) Ermine

ermine

The ermine can be found in Canada, northern USA, and Eurasia. The ermine lives in the tundras, but northern biomes such as taigas as well. Ermines like to inhabit marshes, open spaces or rocky areas next to woodlands. The ermine is a carnivore, and has 34 sharp teeth to prove it.

Their Adaptations

Many animals survive the tundra with adaptations such as:

  • large, thick bodies to keep warmth
  • insulating fur or feathers
  • the ability to accumulate fat quickly which is used for insulation

Many plants survive the tundra due to these adaptations:

  • the trees are small to reduce the amount of damage wind could cause and to be able to collect snow, which as insulation for them
  • when winter months take place, many plants are dormant
  • the flowers of some plants increase their heat efficiency by slowly moving during the day to position themselves in a direction where they can catch the catch the sun.have protective coverings, such as thick hairs, that help protect them from wind, cold and desiccation, which is also known as extreme drying.
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All About the Polar Desert

***To readers: Please excuse the length of this article; there was substantially less information about the polar desert than the other biomes.

Description

Location

Polar deserts are located in Arctic regions of the world.

Characteristics

Unlike the hot and dry desert, winter usually brings snow, not a few drops of rain. However, some of the same animals that live in the hot and dry desert can be found in the polar desert, and many of them are burrowing animals. They burrow in the polar desert to keep warm, in this case, not to keep cool.

Soil Conditions

The polar desert soil is not nutrient-rich, much like its counterpart the hot and dry desert. In fact, the polar desert had mildly acidic soil. This prevents many tall plants from growing. Because of the lack of nutrients, the only plants that survive and strive in the polar desert are low to the ground.

Climate Conditions

The polar desert is characterized by very cold winters with snowfall in place of rain. Polar desert winters are very long and cold. The extremely short summers feature relatively warm and moist weather. One could expect the winter temperature to be around 25 degrees Fahrenheit and summers to be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Winters receive a substantial amount of snow; precipitation is on average, approximately 25 cm.

Below is a climograph of a polar desert. A climograph shows both the precipitation and the average temperature  of the biome. The small blue bars represent precipitation while the line graph represents the temperature in different months.

mcmurdo

Plants and Animals

1) Arctic Willow

willow

The arctic willow grows to be, at most, 20 cm in height. Their leaves are oval-shaped with a pointed end and are a light green to dark green in color. The arctic will has a very shallow root depth which makes it very vulnerable to root damage, however. Due to its location and its structure, the arctic willow has a very short growing season and doe not live o be very old.

2) Arctic Poppy

poppy

The arctic poppy can grow to be about 15 cm in height. Apart from its delicate flower, the poppy is a very strong plant. The plant itself is covered in many black “hairs”. Even with its defenses to the harsh polar desert environment, the arctic poppy is not a very common flower.

3) Arctic Hare

hare

The arctic hare grows to weigh (at most) 15 pounds and 27 inches in height. Their coat is susceptible to changing with the season. In the winter, the arctic hare’s coat is usually white, while in the summer, the arctic hare’s coat turns a spotty white and brown coat. Their diet consists of mainly shrubs, grasses, and flowering plants.

Their Adaptations

To survive in the polar desert biome, many plants are very small. They oft feature very small leaves and shallow root system to absorb as much nutrients from the thin layer of soil that they can. In addition, small leaves reduce the amount of water lost through the leaf surface. Plants also tend to grow close to one another to conserve heat and to help them survive the heavy winds in the polar desert environment. To adapt to the cold temperatures, many animals in the polar desert biome have two coats of fur. More commonly, though, is the use of hibernation. Hibernation is the conserving of energy until warmer temperatures come.

 

All About the Hot Desert

Description

Location

The hot desert biome can be found between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Many hot deserts can be found in the west coast of the US, South America, and Africa, as well as, parts of the Middle East.

Characteristics

The hot desert is, obviously, very hot, although it can get quite cold during the night. It is generally very warm year-round, yet can become sweltering during the summer.

Soil Conditions

The soil of the hot desert is very similar to the soil of the chaparral. The top layer of soil is very fine and easily blown away, while the second layer is sand or rock. The soil is very nutrient-poor.

Climate Conditions

The hot desert is very hot, and there is little humidity to reason with the harsh glare of the sun. However, this biome shows daily extremes–the days are very hot and dry, while nights can be freezing. The hot desert goes through periods of no rain, and when there is rain it is in very quick, concentrated bursts. Approximately, only 1 inch of rain falls on the hot desert biome. All moths have an average temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

Below is a temperature graph of an example of a hot desert biome.

tempegypt

Below is a precipitation graph of an example of a hot desert biome.

precipegypt

Plants and Animals

1) Barrel Cactus

cactus

The barrel cactus, at most, grows to be 11 feet tall. It has ridges that run down its sides with 3 to 4 inch spike. The barrel cactus can be found in the Mojave desert, Sonora desert, and Chihuahua desert.

2) Soaptree Yucca

soaptree yucca

The soaptree yucca is mostly found in North American hot desert biomes. It is a tall plant with large leaves, almost like palm leaves. Soaptree yucca leaves are long and triangular. The soapstone yucca’s fruit resides in a capsule until summer where it splits into three sections. True to its name, the soaptree yucca contains a soapy substance within its roots and trunk. The soapstone yucca easily adapts to its environment.

3) Desert Tortoise

tort

The desert tortoise is a land-dwelling turtle, also known as the gopher tortoise. Its front legs are flat with long claws. To scare away other animals and to communicate, desert tortoises may hiss. The desert tortoise can be up to 100 years old. Upon first meeting, male desert tortoise will automatically fight one another. The desert tortoise can mate anytime it is on land, but they reproduce very slowly because female tortoises must be at least 15 years old to began laying eggs. It is unlawful to touch, kill, or hunt a desert tortoise because they are very endangered. touching a wild desert tortoise could kill it, because its defense mechanism is to let go of all its stored water. The releasing of all its water often kills them.

Their Adaptations

Due to the extreme heat, many animals in the hot desert biome cope by only being active from dusk to dawn to avoid the heat. Animals who do this are crepuscular. Some animals take it a step further by being nocturnal, or only being active at night. To avoid the heat, smaller desert animals burrow underground. Other animals dissipate heat. There are several ways to do this; some animals leave their mouths open while rapidly fluttering their throats to evaporate water from their mouths, while others have (over time) developed long appendages that release heat (i.e. jackrabbits’ long ears).

All About the Savannah

Description

Location

The savannah biome is on every continent apart from Antarctica. However, the savannah biome cover s up to 46% of Africa, where it is there most. The savannah can overlap other biomes.

Characteristics

There are not many trees in the savannah. There are two distinct seasons in the savannah biome–the wet season, full of rain, and the dry season, full of drought. Both seasons are very extensive. Another characteristic of the savannah biome is the soil. Scientists have found almost every type of soil in the world in the savannah.

Soil Conditions

The soil of the savannah can be (moderately) nutrient-rich or nutrient-poor depending on what savannah and the season. Generally, the soil is somewhat nutrient-rich given the fact that there are various amounts of soils there.

Climate Conditions

During the rainy season, the savannah biome can expect (at least) 15 inches of rain a month. The rainy season lasts from May to November. During the dry season, the savannah biome can expect (at least) 5 inches of rain a month. The dry season lasts from October to March in the southern hemisphere or from April to September in the northern hemisphere. The temperature of the savannah biome during the dry season can be up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, while the temperature during wet season can be up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Most savannahs reach a total of (at least) 100 inches of rain yearly.

Below is a precipitation graph of a savannah.precipsouthafrica

Below is a temperature graph of a savannah.tempsouthafrica

Plants and Animals

1) Baobab

The baobab tree can grow to be 25 meters in height, and can live centuries. Nine years of the month, the baobab tree is completely leafless. This is for good reason; during rainy times, the baobab tree stores water in its large trunk. it’s leaflessness helps the baobab not have to use a lot of energy.

2) Jackalberry Tree

 The jackalberry tree can grow to be 80 feet tall. The bark of the jackalberry tree is dark brown but gradually gets greyer. The dark green leaves of the jackalberry tree are about 6 inches long with waxy edges. The jackalberry tree can produce flowers. The flowers of the jackalberry tree are very small and inconspicuous. When the jackalberry tree’s fruit is fully ripe the fruit turns purple. the jackalberry tree’s bark is very heavy. The jackalberry tree is in no danger of being extinct because they are not found in any other place but the savannah. 

3) Emu

The emu can grow to weigh at least 110 pounds. Emus usually mate in the spring, beginning when they are just over a year and half years old. The female Emu lays up to 20 eggs. The diet of the emu consists of fruits, flowers, caterpillars, and green vegetation.

All About the Taiga

Description

Location

One can find the taiga biome all across the most northern part of the Northern Hemisphere. It stretches across Alaska, Canada, and Russia. To be more specific, the taiga biome is located between 50 degrees latitude north and the Arctic circle. 

Characteristics

The taiga biome is the largest biome in the world. The taiga biome is mainly defined by the trees within it. The climax trees are furs, spruces and pines. Sub climax plant communities may have deciduous trees like larch, tamarack and birch. Although the taiga has plenty of trees, it has fewer animals than the tropical rain forest or temperate deciduous forest biome.

Soil Conditions

The taiga biome has very poor soil. The reason for its lack of nutrients is because the taiga biome endures such cold temperatures for a long period of time. Taiga soil is, in fact, very acidic. Patches of permafrost can also be found in the taiga biome.

Climate Conditions

The taiga has a very cold climate during the winter, but in the summer the sun shines and melts the ice. Temperatures can drop below -70 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, yet can rise to above 104 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Winter in this biome can last up to 7 months, bringing frozen lakes and subzero temperatures. The summer is, at most, 100 days of sunshine and no snow. There is a lot of precipitation. It usually occurs during the winter in the form of snow.

Below is a climate graph of the taiga biome. The blue bars represents rainfall, whereas the line graph represents precipitation.

taiga climate

Below is a temperature graph of the taiga biome.

taiga temp

Plants and Animals

1) Black Spruce

black-spruce-02

The black spruce is a tall tree that can grow to be twenty-five meters tall. The taller the black spruce gets, the more spike-like it looks. A distinctive characteristic of the black spruce are its needles. Their needles have four spikes each, and range in color from blue to green. The black spruce produces pinecones, and has a grayish bark. Many animals in the taiga do not feed off of the black spruce which helps it to survive, as well as with the help of its layered bark.

2) White Fir

whitefir

The white fir can grow up to 100 feet tall, and live as long as 300 years to boot. Its leaves are generally 3 inches long and flat. Similarly to the black spruce tree, the white fir tree produces cones. Unlike the black spruce tree, the white fir has very thin bark.

3) Jack Pine

jack pine

The jack pine tree grows to be, at most, thirty meters tall. Its bark is of a reddish tone, but as the tree ages the grayer the bark looks. Like the previously mentioned trees, the jack pine produces cones, and like the black spruce, the jack pine has needles instead of leaves.

4) Wolverine

wolverine.jpg

The wolverine, to many, looks a lot like a small bear, but it is part of the weasel family. The wolverine is a carnivore. It is known for its strength and hunting skill. Its prey is primarily rodents, fish, and birds. Wolverines are a rare and endangered species, due to human populations in their territory.

Their Adaptations

The black spruce tree has some adaptations that helps it survive in the harsh taiga. One is layered bark, which helps protect from the chill of precipitation and helps contain all the nutrients reach. The jack pine tree also has ways to survive. It has waxy pine needles and rough bark because the wax on the pine needles protects the needles and so does the rough bark. These characteristics also protect this tree from the weather in the taiga, which is usually cold. In the taiga, the brush starts forest fires and the waxy pine needles and rough bark protect the tree. The jack pine has long and slender twigs so the snow does not stick to the twig.

A tree not mentioned above is the evergreens. Because they do not drop their leaves when temperatures cool, they do not have to regrow them in the spring. Also, evergreen needles do not contain very much sap. This limits the risk of needle damage from freezing temperatures. n addition, the needles do contain a chemical that repels animals who would eat the needles. The dark green color of the needles absorbs the sunlight, and since the needles are always present, once temperature start to get warm, photosynthesis quickly begins. The shape of the evergreens allows the snow to slide off the branches rather than pile up.

 

 

 

All About the Chaparral

Description

Location

Most continents have a bit of the chaparral biome. The west coast of the US has some chaparral, as well as, Cape Town in South Africa and the southern tip of Australia. To be more specific, chaparrals can be found from 30 degrees Fahrenheit to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 30 degrees Fahrenheit to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Characteristics

The chaparral biome covers a very small portion of the earth–only 2%. However, it holds nearly 20% of the entire world’s plant diversity. It is generally hot and dry in the summer with mild summers

Soil Conditions

The soil in the chaparral biome is very nutrient-poor, and is vey vulnerable to erosion. Underneath the very thin layer of soil is usually bare rock or extremely thin clay. Because of the composition, it takes a very long time for the chaparral to produce fertile soil.

Climate Conditions

The majority of the time, the chaparral biome is very arid. During the day, the temperature can rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but can be as low as 30 degrees Fahrenheit at night. During the summer, the chaparral receives very little rain. Most of the precipitation that occurs in the chaparral biome is during winter, where there can be up to 25 centimeters of precipitation. Rain totals to be, at most, 17 inches, and narrowly beats the desert biome for the least amount of rain yearly.

Below is a precipitation graph of the chaparral biome. (The blue bars represent the average temperature for each month.)

chaparral biome prec.png

 Below is a temperature graph for the chaparral biome.

chap temp.png

Plants and Animals

1) Coyote Brush

coyote brush

 

The coyote brush is a very common chaparral biome plant. The coyote bush is a wiry evergreen that looks like a bush, but it can shape itself to take on a different shape depending on its location. It has small greyish leaves with jagged edges. They have a waxy coating and are fire-retardant. On hot summer days, the coyote brush oozes oils that are unappetizing and help it from being eaten. The coyote brush is a common home for small insects, and is considered a chaparral pioneer species.

2) Fairy Duster

fairyucter

 

The fairy duster is a plant with a large pink puff ball as its flower. Surprisingly, the flower has the ability to bloom all year, but, understandably, it usually blooms from May to June. The fairy duster is a shrub that never grows beyond 3 feet tall, and its leaves are very small. Many chaparral animals use the fairy duster as food.

3) Puma

puma

 

The carnivorous puma is usually a solid color, although that color may very from a tawny red to a dark amber. Although it looks similar to a lion, it can not roar. Instead, it makes a screeching noise. The puma can adapt to the ever-changing chaparral quite easily. Although the puma prefers deer, it also consumes insects, birds, and mice. Currently, pumas are a regulated species.

Their Adaptations

The chaparral is a very water-lacking environment, and a main component of life is water. To keep water within themselves, many plants have a waxy outer texture on their leaves. The wax prevents dehydration. However, it also has another use; the wax repels many animals from consuming it, allowing the plant to live longer. Another adaptation is that chaparral plants often lose their leaves before winter. This helps reduce the amount of energy they need to obtain and helps to retain water.