The tundra biome is one of the coldest places on the planet. It’s the coldest of all of the biomes and temperatures can easily reach -34°C. There is a summer growing season in this Arctic region, but Summer only lasts for about 2 months and temperatures can sometimes struggle to get above the freezing mark. Despite these weather challenges, life still finds a way to thrive up in the far north. Here are some interesting facts about this unique biome.
1. It’s a Fluctuating Census
The animal populations of the tundra biome can fluctuate greatly over the course of a year. Some animals spend all year in the biome and choose to hibernate during the winter so they can be protected from the severe cold that can develop. Others will spend the warmer months in the Arctic and then go further south as the winds turn cold. It’s definitely a difficult environment for life. The name Tundra, in fact, comes from a Finnish word that means “treeless land.”
2. The Last Undiscovered Country
There are areas of the of tundra biome that are inhabited. Parts of Russia, the United States, and Canada all have communities that are technically within the boundaries of the biome. Because of the harsh conditions, however, the vast majority of the tundra biome has yet to be explored because of the weather challenges that exist. New discoveries might be limited in this region if it ever is explored fully because of the weather, making it the last true undiscovered country on the planet today.
3. Tasty Dead Stuff
The tundra biome actually covers 1/5 of the total planet’s surface. Despite this large space, only 48 animals are known to call this region their home. There are only 400 flower varieties that grow within the biome as well. Part of the reason for this is because the soil is permanently frozen in this biome, so deep rooted plants are unable to grow. Another reason is that food supplies are quite low. Most of the survival that happens in this biome happen because nutrients that are released from decaying organic materials that are found on the surface.
4. Wash Your Hands
The tundra biome is actually called a “sink.” This is because the area is able to store massive amounts of carbon dioxide. The tundra biome actually stores more carbon dioxide than it releases every year. If the rest of the planet could replicate what this biome is able to accomplish, then global warming could become a forgotten memory of the past. That’s not bad for a place that receives 24 hours of sunlight every day during the summer season.
5. There’s a Southern Component
Antarctica is also included in the tundra biome, even thought it is on the opposite pole of the planet. This is because the weather conditions at the South Pole are about as frigid in winter as they are at the North Pole. It makes you wonder why Santa would ever choose to establish a toy factory in such harsh conditions. If you could choose to work anywhere, wouldn’t it be better to work somewhere that has nice weather and access to raw materials that are affordable?
6. It’s a Polar Bear Day
The largest animal in the tundra biome is the polar bear. It’s one of the few living things on the tundra that doesn’t rely on composting stuff in order to survive. Polar Bears like to have things like walrus Popsicles to have as a snack or seal steaks for dinner because of all the stored of fat that the animals have. Those fats help the polar bear have the energy reserves it needs in order to survive what is one of the longest winters on the planet.
7. Worse Than A Desert
Many think of the hot, dry deserts of Earth has the driest biome, but the tundra biome has them all beat. There might be certain deserts that only receive 1cm of rain fall every 5 years, but the entire tundra biome itself only receives about 10 inches of rain every year. When compared to the entire precipitation cycle of the desert biome, the tundra wins every single time. This is because the warm temperatures barely begin to start the thawing process of the ground in Summer, making it nearly impossible for enough moisture to develop and turn into weather.
8. It’s a Social Network
Some plants and animals create social networks because they stay together in family groups. Others create these networks because it provides a natural defense against a predator which might be hungry and want to eat them. In the tundra biome, plants and animals group together in order to stay warm. By grouping plant roots together, more moisture can come from the soggy, permafrost lined soil during the growing season. In winter, animals huddle together for protection against polar bears and added warmth.
9. Like the Moon
Because of the natural conditions in space, it is said that Neil Armstrong’s footprints, as well as every other astronaut’s, can still be seen on the surface of the moon. The same could be said about the footprints of a visitor to the tundra biome. The ground is so sensitive because of the permafrost, which makes it remarkably fragile. It is not uncommon for footprints that have been placed on the tundra to still be in existence decades after they were made.
This is why drilling and mining in this area is such a potentially dangerous proposition. Not only does it disrupt the natural workings of the environment, but any damage that happens from the process takes an enormous amount of time to heal. Even pesticides that attempt to control the insects can affect the level of bird life that is present on the tundra biome.
The tundra biome may have its challenges, but there are also certain rewards that come out of those challenges. By knowing these facts about this last frontier, we can all work together to preserve it in a better way.