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The Arctic Tundra
The Tundra is located in the northern regions of North America, Europe, Asia, as well as a few regions of Antarctica. The Tundra is the second largest vegetation zone in Canada. It can be divided clearly into three different sections: the High Arctic Tundra, the Low Arctic Tundra and the Alpine Tundra. The latter Alpine Tundra occurs in higher altitudes such as mountains whereas the first two are mainly based in plains and lowlands of some kind. The Low Arctic Tundra is the transmission point to the north. It is located above Canadaís Boreal forests and is followed by the High Arctic Tundra. The High Arctic Tundra is located farther north and encompasses the Arctic circle as well as most of the western Northwest Territories. Generally though since climate more or less corresponds to vegetation zones, the Tundra is located in Arctic climate areas.
The Tundra suffers a very harsh climate. Because of this fact most of the area remains barren save for a few shrubs and lichens. Itís winters last from 8-10 months and the summers are cool and short. Also due to the fact that much of itís territory is located within the northern pole a lot of the Tundra receives alternating 6 month periods of light and dark. This is also the reason why the Tundra receives cold weather; at itís degree of latitude the suns rays end up hitting the region obliquely, thus causing less solar heat. Here are the temperatures of the Tundra in general:
Average January temperature: -32.1 degrees Celsius
Average July temperature: +4.1 degrees Celsius
Temperature range: 36.2 degrees Celsius
Average annual temperature: -17 degrees Celsius
Lowest temperature recorded: -52.5 degrees Celsius
Highest temperature recorded: +18.3 degrees Celsius
After seeing these temperatures you can see the reason why barely anyone lives up there and why there is rather little natural vegetation.
Seasons And Moisture Content
The main seasons of the Tundra are summer and winter. The winter will last 8 to 10 months followed by the short and much less cold summer. During the summer some lower areas of the Tundra will defrost at which point most of the flora and fauna will start to creep out of hiding. The few summer months are used by many animals such as the polar bear, to mate and to prepare for the once again oncoming winter. During the winter months most everything remains frozen. Many of the animals migrate south for the winter whereas some stay behind or even group together for ritual group suicide (lemmings).
There is little precipitation all year long in the Tundra. The average yearly total is 136 mm, out of which 83.3 mm is snow. This low amount is due to the fact that there is very little evaporation. Since the average temperature is below freezing, it give little or no time for any of the snow and/or ice to melt. This is the reason that the Tundra is often referred to as a polar desert.
The Tundraís fertility is very low. It has An average growing season of about 60 days (1.5 to 3.5 months) which is not really enough time to allow anything to grow. This is also compounded with the fact that the soil is mainly thin and rocky. But, the main problem is that most of the ground in the Tundra region is permafrost (soil which stays frozen perennially). These 3 aspects of Tundra fertility make the Tundra all but useless for use to grow anything of value.
The Tundra forest floor really depends on where you are. The further north that you go the less there is anything but snow, ice, and rocks. In the more temperate Tundra where there is plant life one could find more interesting floors. They contain once again mainly rocky soil which is most likely permafrost. Also there are many different kinds of mosses and lichens scattered along the ground or on bigger rocks along with possibly some short grasses.
Diversity of Plants
There are not very many species of plant life in the Arctic Tundra, nor is their growth rate giant or are they abundant but somehow they do survive. Most of the plant life occurs in the lower areas of the Tundra although there are sometimes a few "pockets" of vegetation as you move further north.
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Climate, Tundra, Forest ecology, Alpine tundra, Taiga, Arctic, Montane ecosystems, Caribou, Boreal, Global warming in the Arctic, Polar ecology
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