• Renu Joshi, Ph. D.

Plants in Tundra

Updated: Feb 19, 2018

The tundra biome covers around 20% of the planet's land surface and is a chilly and treeless plain where severe conditions make it difficult for plants and animals alike to endure. The tundra is the coldest of the biomes with winter temperatures well below freezing point.  It also exhibits a dry climate however it receives about as much precipitation as the ordinary desert i.e. around 10 inches annually.

Most of Tundra remains covered with snow with permafrost beneath the soil, keeping the ground frozen. There are none to few nutrients supportive of plant and animal life.

Tundra areas are found in northern Europe, North America, and Asia. The tundra has two seasons: a long winter and a summer that is brief with longer days in summer and longer nights in winter. The winters last for around 8 months in a year and are very cold with snow-covered throughout the snow and temperature reaching -60 degrees F. Summers are shorter, however, cause another extreme of sun not setting for the most part of the day and temperatures reaching about 50 degrees F and causes snow to melt and form wetlands.

Permafrost layer in Tundra is the layer of earth beneath the topsoil that remains frozen during the year and is usually only a few feet beneath the surface. It prevents trees from growing in the tundra because trees need to have deeper roots plus they cannot grow in the frozen ground. Therefore, common plants in tundra are shrubs, herbs, lichens and grass and usually grow in groups and remain closer to the ground for prevention against cold winds. They have a tendency to have shallow roots and flower rapidly throughout the short summertime.

The majority of the plants at the tundra are perennials that come back every year from the same root. This allows them to grow throughout the summertime and save up nutrients as they lay dormant for the winter. They also have a tendency to have hairy stems and dark leaves. This assists them in absorbing energy from the sun.

The tundra includes a lot more animal activity throughout the summer than the winter. It is because most birds migrate south for the summer, insects lay eggs that wait around for the summertime to hatch. A few mammals hibernate for the winter whereas few animals, such as the caribou migrate south during the winter. However, there are several animals those have adapted to winter at the tundra.

Renu Joshi, Ph. D.
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