Tundra Biome Alaskan tundra

Climate of the Tundra In Alaska

  • Average Precipitation: min = 6 inches, max = 10 inches
  • Average Winter Temperature is around -30° F
  • Average Summer Temperature ranges from around 37-54° F

The Alaskan tundra has two seasons - winter and summer. Summer only lasts a few weeks in the tundra. Most of the year is dry season, for the tundra only receives 6-10 inches of rain per year.

Alaska's tundra exists along its western and northern coasts. It consists of barely any trees and is very windy with dramatic seasonal changes, including drastic changes in daylight hours. The tundra only receives about as much precipitation as a desert, but over one thousand species of plants are able to thrive there. Alaskan tundra temperatures only reach above freezing for a few weeks each year, and a layer of its soil is in a constant state of permafrost.

Net Primary Productivity

The Alaskan Tundra is in between the latitude lines 60-75° N and is not very biologically diverse. The temperatures are too cold and the winds too strong for trees to grow, and there are only a few dozen animals adapted to living there. The land is very similar to that of a dessert and most of the living organisms there are shrubs, mosses, grasses, and flowers.

Compared to the other biomes, the Tundra receives much less rainfall, has extremely little growing season, and has the second lowest net primary productivity at 600 kilocalories/square meter/year, but makes up the most percent of earth's land surface. While the tropical rain forest, estuary, swamps and marshes receive more than 60 inches of rainfall, temperate grassland receive 10-30 inches, deciduous temperate forest receives 30-60 inches, and boreal forest receives 12-33 inches, the tundra and desert only receive less than 10 inches of rainfall each year. While the majority of the biomes have 365 days of growing season, the boreal forest, tundra, and desert have less than 120 days. Also, while the other biomes (besides the desert) have thousands of kilocalories/square meter/year net primary productivity, the tundra only has 600 kilocalories/square meter/year. Finally, of the percent of earth's land surface, tropical rain forest consists of 11%, estuary and swamps/marshes consist of 3%, savanna and temperate grassland consist of 21%, deciduous temperate forest and boreal forest consist of 22%, and tundra and desert consist of the highest percent of earth's land surface at 33%.

Soil Quality

Tundra soil quality and fertility is very poor. Tundra soil lacks minerals and nutrients (besides the ones it receives from animal droppings) and has a frozen layer (permafrost) due to the extremely low temperatures. This soil is not used for anything because of its poor quality.

Endangered and Invasive Species in the Tundra

Endangered Polar Bears - The polar bear ranges from northern Alaska and Canada to Russia. The polar bear population has drastically declined because of the ice in their habitats melting, making it harder to hunt for food. Polar Bears were one of the first species to become endangered due to global warming (Habitat destruction and fragmentation in HIPPCO).
Invasive Arctic Fox - Purpose or accident? Non-native arctic foxes were brought to 225 islands in Alaska in 1836 for fur farming. At the time the idea seemed to make sense because they fed on abundant seabird populations, but the foxes then backfired and were responsible for the near extinction of several native birds. A removal process is now in place to eradicate Arctic foxes from Chirikof Island in Alaska.

Animals in the Tundra Biome

Caribou - Caribou migrate during the tundra's cold winters to avoid the harsh weather. They have two thick layers of fur to keep in their body heat and help them be buoyant in water. They also have large concave hooves that offer stable support on wet, soggy ground and crusty snow.
Musk Ox - Musk ox have short legs, high body fat and thick fur to adapt to the cold. Their hooves are made of keratin and have no blood circulation, so are immune to the cold snow beneath them. They also move seasonally to find food.
Grizzly Bear - Grizzly bears use their long claws to dig holes and find food. In the winter they hibernate in which their heart rate and body temperature drop to survive cold temperatures. They also have thick coats to keep them warm.

Plants in the Tundra Biome

Arctic Moss - Arctic moss is an aquatic plant that can grow on land or under water in the tundra. It can store energy to use even when it isn't growing. It also grows low to the ground to avoid the cold and harsh winds of the tundra.
Arctic Willow - The arctic willow has adapted to the permafrost of the tundra by growing a shallow root system. It has also adapted to the cold weather by growing small hairs on its leaves; similar to an animal's thick fur.
Bearberry - Bearberry is a low growing plant so it can avoid the harsh wind chill of the tundra. It also has fine silky hairs and leathery leaves to keep it warm.


Created with images by mypubliclands - "My Public Lands Roadtrip: Iditarod National Historic Trail in Alaska" • skeeze - "polar bears wildlife snow" • diapicard - "arctic fox mammal fox" • AlaskaNPS - "caribou" • Ray Bouknight - "Natural History Museum of LA County" • DenaliNPS - "Grizzly Bear- Sow and cubs" • Kitty Terwolbeck - "Wet wet wet - soggy hiking ground" • andrey_zharkikh - "2011.08.20_12.11.49_IMG_5336" • cm195902 - "Arctostaphylos alpina"

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