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Ecosystems

Tundra

Musk oxen on the tundra, Greenland Musk oxen on the tundra, Greenland Tundra is a biome where trees cannot grow because of cold temperatures and because the growing season during the warmer months is so short. Vegetation is limited to low and hardy plants such as shrubs, grasses and mosses. Few animals make the tundra their permanent home. There are three types of tundra: Arctic tundra, Antarctic tundra and alpine tundra. Arctic and Antarctic tundra border the ice-covered polar zones. In these regions, a permanent layer of frozen soil, called permafrost, lies below ground. Alpine tundra is found all around the world on the upper slopes of high mountains, in zones lying above above the tree line (the height above which trees cannot grow) but below the snowline (the height above which the ground is always covered in snow and ice). 


Where is tundra found?

Map of polar tundra regions Map of polar tundra regions The Arctic tundra is found north of the treeline, which divides the tundra belt from the boreal forest (or “taiga”). It includes parts of northern Russia, Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Scandinavia. Most of Antarctica is permanently covered by snow and ice, but the slightly warmer coastal fringes of the Antarctic Peninsula (which stretches north toward South America) are tundra. Tundra is also found on islands in the Southern Ocean, such as the Auckland Islands, Macquarie Island, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

There are two main seasons in the polar tundra: winter and summer. Winters are cold, windy and dark, with an average temperature in the Arctic tundra of -28°C (-18°F). The short summer sees temperatures rise above 0°C (32°F), which causes the surface ice and snow to melt and plants to grow and reproduce.

At up to 600 kg (1300 lb), the largest animal to survive on the tundra is the polar bear, which lives in coastal regions as well as on the Arctic Ocean ice.

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