There are two types of tundra – arctic and alpine.
- Arctic tundra extends as a continuous belt below the polar ice cap and above the tree line (taiga) in the northern hemisphere.
- It occupies the northern fringe of Canada, Alaska, European Russia, Siberia and island group of Arctic Ocean.
- On the South Pole, tundra is very small since most of it is covered by ocean.
- Alpine tundra occurs at high mountains above the tree line. E.g. High ranges of Himalayas, Andes, Alps etc.
- The tundra climate is characterized by a very low mean annual temperature.
- In mid-winter temperatures are as low as 40 – 50 °C below freezing.
- Precipitation is mainly in the form of snow and sleet.
- There are no trees in the tundra (Ground is frozen). Lowest form of vegetation like mosses, lichens etc. are found here and there.
- Coastal lowlands support hardy grasses and the reindeer moss which provide the only pasturage for reindeers.
- In the brief summer, berry-bearing bushes and Arctic flowers bloom.
- In the summer, birds migrate north to prey on the numerous insects which emerge when the snow thaws.
- Insects have short life cycles which are completed during favourable period of the year.
- Animals like the reindeer, arctic fox, wolves, musk-ox, polar bear, lemming, arctic hare, arctic willow etc. live in tundra region.
- Reptiles and amphibians are almost absent.
- Most of the animals have long life e.g. arctic willow has a life span of 150 to 300 years.
- They are protected from chillness by the presence of thick cuticle and epidermal hair or fur.
- Mammals of the tundra region have large body size and small tail and ear to avoid the loss of heat from the surface [less surface area = less heat loss = less food required to produce heat].
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