A winter plain with little plant and animal life, located near the North Pole, the South Pole, and other polar regions. The tundra's climate is quite harsh and cold, emphasized by the long and even cruel winters and practically fleeting summers. The tundra also contains low average temperatures, yet surprisingly, there is little precipitation. Permafrost particularly influences the arctic tundras found near the top of the world. The soil at the surface, which tends to be rocky and/or soggy, thaws in summer season. Unfortunately, the solid frozen ground and the flat land makes the drainage of water extremely difficult. This soggy water at the surface forms ponds and bogs, helping provide the water that would usually be supplied by rainfall or snowfall.

In arctic tundras with little of no drainage problems, the intermit freezing and thawing forms cracks, creating patterned shapes in the ground. However, tundras with many drainage problems or no drainage at all produce irregular landforms. When these slopes thaw in the summer, the process of solifluction occurs. This is when the half liquid soil slowly flows down a slope in a giant mass. These situations also occure in alpine tundras to a lesser extent. This is because bare rock-covered ground is much more prevalent in the alpine tundra.

A few examples of plants that grow in the tundra are grasses, heath lings, lichens, and mosses. Note their considerably small size and enphasis in the roots rather than the leaves. Because of the arctic tundra's strong winds, low light, and difficult to use soil, plant life is few and restricted to these types of small plants that reproduce not by flower pollination, but by division. Alpine tundra plant communities contain mat-forming and cushion-forming plants, unlike in the Arctic. These plants are accustomed to heavy winds and high amounts of sunlight for short periods of time.

Most species of arctic wildlife are quite similar to other species found around the world, much like Charles Darwin and his observations on the Galapagos Islands. Once again, the enviroment affects the variety of animal life just like it restricts the types of plant life. Some examples of arctic wildlife include the: Musk ox, caribou, reindeer, arctic hare, lemming, North American Pika, grey wolf, arctic fox, snowy owl, and polar bear. Note their relation to their worldwide cousins. Invertebrate life also exists on the tundra, including black flies and mosquitoes. On the alpine tundra, wildlife includes the mountain goat, bighorn sheep, elk, moose, pika, squirrel, marmot, ptarmigan, butterfly, beetle, and grasshopper.

The tundra ecosystem is very delicate and balanced. Although it seems as though permafrost would cause negative affects to the tundra, if it were removed, the entire ecosystem would be disrupted. And of course, more water from rain would cause massive flooding, killing off what little plant life exists. Every species, habitat, and community is essential for the maintenance and survival of the tundra biome.

Tun"dra (?), n. [Russ., from a native name.]

A rolling, marshy, mossy plain of Northern Siberia.


© Webster 1913

Tun"dra (?), n. [Russ.]

One of the level or undulating treeless plains characteristic of northern arctic regions in both hemispheres. The tundras mark the limit of arborescent vegetation; they consist of black mucky soil with a permanently frozen subsoil, but support a dense growth of mosses and lichens, and dwarf herbs and shrubs, often showy-flowered.


© Webster 1913

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