Caribou on the Arctic tundra of Alaska (US)
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US Fish and Wildlife Service

Arctic Tundra

It is too cold for trees to grow in the north polar region. This place without trees is called the Arctic tundra.

Trees can not grow there but many other things can! During the summer, grass, flowers, moss, and lichen cover the land.  As snow and water in the ground melt, the water makes ponds and marshes during the short summer. Many animals, like caribou, insects and many birds, spend summer in the Arctic tundra. 

During the winter it is very cold and dark.  A blanket of snow covers the land. Some animals, like the Arctic hare, musk ox, and ptarmigan, can survive the fierce conditions of the Arctic tundra even during the winter. They have adaptations that help them live so far north. Some have thick fur or feathers for warmth. Some have fur or feathers that turn white in color during the winter to camouflage against the white snow, and then become darker during summer. Some add a thick layer of fat on their bodies during summer which like a coat keeps them warm all winter long. Many of the animals that remain in the arctic tundra during the winter hibernate (sleep) for most of the cold season. 

Last modified February 6, 2007 by Lisa Gardiner.

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