Biome (Arctic)

Graduation Requirements
Science Biological Earth and Space
Equipment/Materials Needed

No special equipment or materials are required

Tundra ecosystems are treeless regions found in the Arctic and on the tops of mountains.

Badge Completion Requirements

Introduction to the Arctic

Tundra ecosystems are treeless regions found in the Arctic and on the tops of mountains, where the climate is cold and windy, and rainfall is scant. Tundra lands are covered with snow for much of the year, but summer brings bursts of wildflowers.

The Arctic's permafrost, the literal foundation for much of the region's unique ecosystem, is deteriorating with the warmer global climate. Permafrost is a layer of frozen soil and dead plants that extends some 1,476 feet (450 meters) below the surface. In much of the Arctic, it is frozen year-round. In the southern regions of the Arctic, the surface layer above the permafrost melts during the summer, and this forms bogs and shallow lakes that invite an explosion of animal life. Insects swarm around the bogs, and millions of migrating birds come to feed on them.

Effects of Global Warming


Another major concern is that the melting of the permafrost is contributing to global warming. The frozen ground contains about one and a half times the amount of carbon already in the atmosphere today, as well as large amounts of methane, another potent greenhouse gas. Until recently, the tundra acted as a carbon sink and captured huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as part of photosynthesis. That process helped keep the amount of this greenhouse gas from accumulating in the atmosphere.

Today, however, as the permafrost melts and dead plant material decomposes and releases greenhouse gases, the tundra has flipped from a carbon sink to a carbon contributor. That means not only is the planet less capable of preventing greenhouse gases from accumulating, but the tundra is also contributing to their buildup. Scientists are still learning about what else the permafrost harbors, and what could be released as it thaws. 

When we think of the arctic biome we tend to envision the Arctic and Antarctic regions


Explain permafrost

Compare and contrast the Arctic and Antarctic

Explain how the permafrost thaws and refreezes if the Arctic is a frozen ocean

Discuss why trees don't grow in the Arctic biome

Explain the lack of snow and rain in an Arctic biome

Please develop and submit a presentation demonstrating your understanding of weather conditions and permafrost in the Arctic biome. Please include the above "prompts" in your presentation

Plants of the Arctic Biome

 Approximately 1,700 species of plants live on the Arctic tundra, including flowering plants, dwarf shrubs, herbs, grasses, mosses, and lichens. The tundra is characterized by permafrost, a layer of soil and partially decomposed organic matter that is frozen year-round.

Some common flowering plants you'll find in the tundra include the bright pink petals of purple saxifrage, the fuzzy prairie crocus, the lovely Arctic poppy that swivels to face the sun, and moss campion, which sports a profusion of tiny pink flowers. Cottongrass also makes an obvious flower, which looks like a puffy white cotton ball, and bearberry is a low-growing bush that flowers in the spring, producing small berries that are eaten by wildlife – including bears – and also used as medicine.



Discuss the adaptations you would expect to encounter with plants from the Arctic Biome

Explain how the adaptations improve the plant's chance of survival

Discuss the plant-eating animals that you might expect to see in the Arctic Biome

Explain why trees are missing from the plant list of the Arctic Biome

Please develop and submit a presentation demonstrating your understanding of Arctic Biome. Please include the above "prompts" in your presentation

Animals of the Arctic Biome

With a discussion of the animals of the Arctic, one's attention immediately turns to the mega-vertebrates, bear, musk ox, caribou, and yak. However, the Arctic Biome provides habitat for a menagerie of life.  Smaller mammals include arctic hare, arctic fox, marmot, and lemming. 

Birds are numerous in the Arctic summer but most find that migration is the way of dealing with the Arctic's relentless winter. Birds include swans, snowy owls, loons, and ptarmigan. 

Amphibians and reptiles find the Arctic Biome an unsuitable habitat because of their inability to thermoregulate.

Fish are numerous in the cold Arctic water.


Arctic Biome animals will be discussed in detail in the Zoology-Vertebrate area.