The stark and barren Tundra landscape is located in the coldest of the all the world’s habitats. Very often it is covered with rocks, broken up into small pieces because of the constant freezing and thawing. In this inhospitable climate, only small plants can survive, often growing in pockets or cracks in the rocks. The word Tundra is derived from the Finnish word meaning “treeless”.
The tundra is a carbon sink – an area that takes in more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it releases. While plants in other parts of the world give off carbon dioxide when they die and decompose, the colder temperatures of the tundra means there is no decomposition, and plant remains thousands of years old have been found in the permafrost.
Effects of Global Warming On Arctic Tundra
- Melting of ice worldwide, especially at the Earth’s poles and Arctic sea ice
- Decline of animal species inhabiting Tundra (e.g. polar bears). Only the most adaptable will survive
- Red foxes in Canada are pushing their ranges ever more northward, infringing upon the habitat of the Arctic fox
- Rising of sea levels and desalinization (the removal of salt) from the oceans
- Increase in precipitation (rain and snowfall) worldwide, on average and rise in temperatures
- Change in ecosystems (some species will migrate while others will become extinct.
- Sustainable hunting in the Arctic will become a thing of the past
- Seals, narwhals and salmon rely upon the Arctic cod, but the shrinking ice packs are causing a decline in the cod’s major food source, marine plants. Chemical pollution is also contributing to the cod’s decline. Consequently the mammals and fish who depend upon the cod as their major food supply are also declining. The pyramid effect continues up the chain of life to affect polar bears whose primary preyare Arctic cod and seals.
- The Alaskan Oil Pipeline was built across a caribou migration route. In some places it has been raised to allow the caribou to pass under, but its construction has melted permafrost along its length. Oil exploration and extraction have also disturbed permafrost in many areas. When the sun hits tire tracks it causes the permafrost to melt, causing erosion and bigger ruts which eventually turn into gullies. As the Arctic permafrost melts, plant mass decomposes, returning carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and reversing the carbon sink effect
Effects of Global Warming on Alpine Tundra
- The effects of global warming on the Alpine Tundra are not well known, but because it is the most fragile biome on earth, the effects are bound to be disastrous.
- Plants will die.
- Animal migration patterns will change (e.g. butterflies, foxes and plants will move farther north or to higher, cooler areas, edging out rare species further up the mountains
- The entire Alpine Tundra may well disappear
- Snow packs on mountains will melt, increasing rainfall in the spring and by midsummer, when the crops need water, there will be very little left
- The fragile plants are at great risk to human incursion; a piece of litter can kill a plant in just a few weeks, if not picked up.
- A hiker’s feet can easily destroy plants, not to mention the huge damage done by Off Road Vehicles.
Tundra Ecosystem References: