Tundra is a type of biome where consistent low temperatures and short summer growing seasons hinder the tree growth. The word tundra comes from the Russian, which means “uplands” or “treeless mountain tract.” The word generally refers only to the areas where the subsoil is permafrost (i.e. permanently frozen soil).
There are three types of tundra: Arctic, Alpine, and Antarctic. Arctic tundra occurs in the far Northern Hemisphere, north of the taiga belt. Antarctic tundra occurs on Antarctica and several Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands. Alpine tundra does not typically contain trees. The climate and soils at high altitude prevent significant tree growth. Also, alpine tundra does not have permafrost. Plus, alpine soils are better than Arctic soils. Alpine tundra occurs in mountain ranges worldwide.
The vegetation is composed of dwarf shrubs, sedges and grasses, mosses, and lichens. Scattered trees grow in some tundra regions. The Ecotone (or ecological boundary region) between the tundra and the forest is known as the tree line or timberline. The biodiversity in this region is low: 1,700 species of vascular plants and only 48 species of land mammals are capable of living in these harsh conditions.
However, millions of birds migrate there each year for the marshes. Notable animals in the Arctic region include caribou (reindeer), musk ox, arctic hare, arctic fox, snowy owl, lemmings, and polar bears.
Due to the harsh weather conditions, permanent human survival and settlement are not possible in the this extremely harsh region. A severe threat however to the regions is global warming, which causes permafrost to melt. The melting of the permafrost could radically change which species can survive there.
Another thing to note is that about 1/3rd of the world’s soil-bound carbon is in taiga and tundra areas. When the permafrost melts, it releases carbon in the form of carbon dioxide and methane, both of which are greenhouse gasses. Up until the 1970s, the arctic and antarctic regions were a carbon sink, but today, it is a carbon releasing source. Currently, most of the tundras are in ecological peril. Visit some of them before they are destroyed permanently.
July 27, 2016 12:00 am Leave your thoughts