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Tundra in the Western Andreafsky Wilderness of Alaska (U.S.)
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USGS - Daniel R. Ruthrauff, photographer

Tundra Biome

In the very cold places of the world, survival isn't easy. The soil is frozen, its top surface thawing only during summer, and no trees can grow. Yet plants and animals that are adapted for the harsh conditions thrive. This biome is called tundra. Most of the world's tundra is found in the north polar region. It is called Arctic tundra. There is a small amount of tundra on parts of Antarctica that are not covered with ice. Plus, tundra is found on high altitude mountains and is called alpine tundra.

Permafrost is the term given to frozen soil. During the winter months, permafrost reaches the surface of the tundra. It is very cold during the winter, with temperatures reaching -60 degrees Fahrenheit (-51 degrees Celsius). Very few animals are active in these harsh conditions.

In the summer time, the tundra changes. The Sun is out almost 24 hours a day, so the tundra starts to warm up. The permafrost melts at the surface, and plant life grows. However, the permafrost only disappears for a few inches below the surface. There isn't enough soil for trees to grow, so only small plants are found in the tundra.

At the same time, a variety of animals come out to feast on the plants. Insects come to feed on the animals, and birds appear to enjoy the insects.

Last modified October 24, 2008 by Lisa Gardiner.

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