Have you ever heard about tundra? Tundra is an exclusive biome located only in the coldest parts of the planet. There are only three regions on this earth where this biome exists: Arctic area, Alpine area, and Antarctic area.
It can be characterized as a biome where only short plants are able to grow. Trees growth is hindered in this area because of cold temperature, short growing season, and strong chilling wind blows. That’s why, only some species of dwarf shrubs, sedges and grasses, mosses, and lichens can be found here.
Even though it doesn’t have tall trees like tropical rainforests, but tundra is actually not less important biome. Tundra is home to huge variation of plants and animals, and it also acts as the ‘guardian’ of this planet for many other reasons that we can talk about later.
The thing is, this exclusive biome is under a huge threat that climate change and irresponsible human activities bring. What are those threats? And how important is it for us to protect this exclusive zone? Here in this article we are going to talk about it.
One of the easiest way to identify tundra is to check for tree line. When you are walking north until you pass the last standing tree, that’s when you arrive at the tundra. Just as mentioned before, the condition is too harsh for trees to grow tall, but it doesn’t mean that there is no life in there.
Tundra actually has rich vegetation, especially at summer when the sun seems like never goes down. Various species of dwarf shrubs, sedges and grasses, mosses, and lichens conquer this biome and become important part of it.
Those plants provide nutrients for various animals living in the area. Reindeers and musk ox are the biggest herbivore that live on tundra, while polar and brown bears are the largest carnivore there to maintain those herbivore’s population.
There are many other smaller creatures inhabiting the cold biome such as arctic fox, snowy owl, and arctic ground squirrels. Some reptiles and amphibians live there too, even though the temperature is considered too cold for them to be able to survive.
Some animals migrate during winter and come back when the temperature is warmer. But some others stay and either hibernate or just spend their time enjoying the cool breeze. Natural cycle is maintained well throughout the year by the presence of all those organisms.
Importance Of Tundra
Aside from providing life support to those organisms mentioned above, tundra also gives extraordinary support for every one of us. You don’t believe it? Then we will tell you the fact. Tundra gives us accurate indicator for climate change and help us to prevent it too.
One of the most famous features that this biome has is permafrost or a land that never thaw. This is the most accurate indicator to climate change, because tundra’s permafrost is very sensitive to any changes in the environment even the slightest one.
Permafrost vary in thickness starting from one meter to one kilometer deep. The frozen ground leaves mark when even slightest temperature change happens. When a layer of the land that never thaw does thaw, that’s a reminder for us about what happens.
Not only functioning as an alarm, tundra’s permafrost actually helps us to prevent worse disaster too by storing this planet’s carbon sink. In fact, one-third of this planet’s soil-bond carbon is in taiga and tundra areas. Imagine how much time this biome has given us to reverse global disaster caused by those carbons.
However, while today tundra is still our guardian, but researchers predict that it can be disloyal to us someday. When global temperature has reached a point of no return, tundra’s permafrost will thaw and release all its stored carbon to the atmosphere. The result of that phenomenon would be even worse greenhouse effect.
Threats It Is Facing
Don’t you know that today tundra areas have showed signs of ‘betrayal’? Yes, some permafrost areas are starting to melt slowly. But that’s not something that the biome intentionally does, because in fact we are the ones who caused it.
Our modern world lifestyle releases a lot of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere and caused global warming. Global temperature is rising, and it is predicted to keep on rising, until it reaches a point where some layers of the land that never thaw cannot help but thawing.
Air pollution from our habits of burning fossil fuel also poses threat to this biome. Black carbon we produce from burning fossil fuel can settle on tundra’s snow. This particle will then cause the snow to melt faster and affect the temperature.
Ozone depleting substances also pose awful threat to tundra environments. With less cover from the sun than other biomes, ozone depletion will let strong ultraviolet ray to reach every single organism in the area with no mercy. With such kind of torture that we give to the environment, can we really ask for it to not betray us?
Do We Have Solutions To It?
So, how to maintain tundra’s loyalty to us and prevent it from betraying our trust? The answer is neither easy nor difficult, because actually we already have it in our minds. Our commitment, to admit that the answer is correct, is the hard part of it.
Yes, cutting down our pollution is the answer. Switching our energy source from fossil fuel to more renewable energy sources is the key. We already have countless alternatives to fossil fuel, but whether we are going to switch from it or not is the problem.
We need to realize that if we want to keep our planet safe, we need to stop burning that flammable remnant of prehistoric organisms. Because fossil fuel burning effects will not only affect tundra environments, but literally every single environment on earth.
Our time is running out, since tundra itself has shown its signs of ‘betrayal’. Before it is too late, we’d better change our bad habits. Trend shows that alternative energy sources are getting more affordable nowadays, and it is up to us whether we want to switch or not.