Shop Windows to the Universe

The Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist is focused on modernizing seismology education. Thanks to IRIS, you can download this issue for free as a pdf. Print copies are available in our online store.
Tundra in the Western Andreafsky Wilderness of Alaska (U.S.)
Click on image for full size
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 Arctic. 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.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games section of our online store includes a climate change card game and the Traveling Nitrogen game!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

The Arctic: Earth's North Polar Region

North of the Arctic Circle (at 66.5°N latitude) you will find the Arctic Ocean surrounded by the northernmost parts of the continents of Europe, Asia, and North America. You will find the geographic North...more

Arctic Tundra

The Arctic tundra, vast plains filled with grasses, flowers, mosses and lichen, is located north of the taiga forests in Earth’s north polar region. Like all types of tundra, this is a very cold and windy...more

Antarctica

Antarctica is unique. It is the coldest, windiest, and driest continent on Earth. The land is barren and mostly covered with a thick sheet of ice. Antarctica is almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle...more

Tundra Herbivores

There are so many interesting mammals in the tundra, they had to be divided into two groups! You can read about carnivores here. Musk-ox and caribou are the largest herbivores in the tundra region. Both...more

Biomes and Ecosystems

Biomes are large regions of the world with similar plants, animals, and other living things that are adapted to the climate and other conditions. Explore the links below to learn more about some of the...more

The Taiga Biome

“Taiga” is a Russian word meaning dense evergreen forest. The taiga biome, the largest biome on land, is full of dense evergreen forests. Located just south of the tundra in the northern parts of Europe,...more

Climate Changes with Latitude

Latitude determines the amount of sunlight received. The amount of sunlight and the amount of moisture received determines the ecosystem or biome. Listed below are the types of ecosystems that exist in...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA