What gives the flora and fauna the wherewithal to create strategies since they cannot control their environment? We see from various eco-habits* harsh conditions do not prevent their onward development. Nature is dynamic and her laws are impartial and allow life forms make the best of circumstances arising out of the cosmos within which universes follow same laws. How the Earth is positioned in relation to the Sun for an example gives us seasons. Around the equator the Sun is always overhead that makes seasons less defined than in the temperate regions. It dictates way of life of species living in any ecosystem.
Take the case of the tundra biome It is called cold desert where the harshness of desert and coldness of Arctic region are upon any life form that must survive there. How do they still?
Due to extremely cold temperatures that last most of the year, the layer of ground just below the surface stays permanently frozen. This frozen layer of ground is called permafrost. The tundra only receives between 6 to 10 inches of precipitation a year, which is less than most of the deserts on earth.
The tundra is also a very windy environment. The high winds dry the surface of the land and create a colder environment. The winds also move dust and snow around the land, which can make life more challenging in the tundra.
Plants Of The Tundra
Although most biomes on earth are covered in trees, the tundra is known for its lack of trees. The term tundra actually comes from the Finnish word ‘tunturia’ which means ‘treeless plain’. The tundra has very few trees due to several factors. First, the short summer season results in a short growing season, which makes it difficult for trees to grow larger. The persistent and strong winds also make it difficult for large trees to survive due to damage caused by the wind. Additionally, the permafrost makes it difficult for roots to penetrate the soil and create a strong support base. The cold temperature of the permafrost also makes decomposition slower, which limits the amount of nutrients being cycled through the environment.
Although there are few trees in the tundra, there is a variety of smaller vegetation that grows in this environment. Plants that are commonly found in the tundra biome include dwarf shrubs, grasses, mosses, and lichens.
The plants and few trees that are found in the tundra have developed important adaptations that have made it possible for them to survive in this harsh environment. The trees that can survive in the tundra are often small, which reduces the damage caused by wind and makes it possible for these tress to be covered in snow during the winter. Although it would seem that being covered in snow would make the trees colder, in fact, the snow acts as insulation for the trees and helps them stay warmer during the winter months.
Other plants of the tundra also have adaptations that help them survive. During winter months, many plants go dormant to tolerate the cold temperatures. When plants go dormant they are still alive, but they are not actively growing. By going dormant during the winter, plants are able to save energy and use it during more favorable conditions, like warmer summer months. During the summer, the top layer of the soil thaws slightly, and plants have adapted to take advantage of this change in soil temperature and of this short growing season. Plants grow rapidly during the short summer season and they flower more quickly.
Some plants have developed more specific adaptations for survival. The flowers of some plants increase their heat efficiency by slowly moving during the day to position themselves in a direction where they can catch the most rays from the sun. Other plants have protective coverings such as thick hairs that help protect them from wind, cold and desiccation, which is also known as extreme drying. Although in most environments, plants drop old leaves, in the tundra some plants retain old leaves to increase survival. By retaining old leaves, the plant conserves nutrients and the leaves provide protection from the elements of the environment such as wind and cold.
Animals Of The Tundra
Due to the harsh conditions of the tundra biome, there are only certain animals that can survive in this environment. There are a few large species, such as musk oxen and caribou, that live in the tundra, but most animals are smaller in size. Some of the most common small animals in the tundra include lemmings, voles and shrews. Due to the large number of small rodents and mammals, predators such as arctic foxes and snowy owls also inhabit the tundra.
*The term eco-habit is used in the sense various components living and non living forms in Nature give and take and in this process life forms create conditions for their sustainability.(ack:Tundra Biome-Margaret Cunningham)