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.
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.
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.
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.
The graph below shows the monthly temperatures of Alberta, Canada for a month.
Plants and Animals
1) 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.
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.
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.
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.