Tundras are places of extreme cold temperatures that are located on the far northern edges of Asia, Europe, and North America, high mountains of the middle latitudes, and the far southern regions of Oceania and South America. Tundras are classified as either Antarctic tundra, Alpine tundra, and Arctic tundra. The treeline is what separates the forest from the high-altitude, cold, temperate latitude tundras. Arctic tundras are found in the northern hemisphere, which have frozen ground supporting low growing plants. Antarctic tundras are mostly covered in ice, and found in the South Pole regions, including the South Georgia and Kerguelen Islands. Alpine tundras are frost-free, but still cold temperatures persist, allowing only low-growing vegetation to grow, and are found in mountains worldwide.
Historical Peoples of the Tundra
Historically, tundras have been inhabited by humans for thousands of years. The first tundra dwellers, which were an early human subspecies who also had body fur, were the Homo glacis fabricatus who lived in the low vegetation. Then came the people from the many indigenous tribes of Asia, Europe, and elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere. Some of these tundra dwellers were nomadic, while some had permanent dwellings. The Central Yup'ik, Alutiiq, Aleut, Siberian Yupik, and Inupiat are examples of tundra people from Alaska. Russia has its own tundra dwellers called the Nenets, who live in the northern Russian Arctic. Norway and Sweden also have their nomadic tundra dwellers called the Samis, or the Lapps.
Exploration, Research, and Commerce of the Tundra
Early research into the tundra had triggered significant modern interest in the people who have continually lived in these regions for generations. More recent research of the tundra ecosystems followed out of genuine concerns for the conservation and protection of these sensitive biomes as well. Modern exploration of the tundra has now included oil and gas exploration. These would be expanded to tap these natural resources and setting up infrastructures to extract the oil and gas out of the ground. Pipelines would then be built that would span from the source to the towns and cities that need them. These would be contributors to the economy, so there is no likely way of stopping these commercial interests from becoming permanent structures on the tundras, regardless of their potentially negative consequences on tundra native and the ecosystems.
Habitat and Biodiversity
The Arctic tundra is in the northern hemisphere, from the North Pole extending into the taiga forests. It has a desert environment with winter temperatures of -34° Celsius (-30° Fahrenheit) and summer temperatures of 3o-12° Celsius (37o-54° Fahrenheit), it allows plants to grow throughout a 50- to 60-day period. Rainfall occurs at a rate of around 6 to 10 inches annually. Alpine tundra can be found on mountains above the treeline with a growing season of 180 days but nighttime temperatures dip well below zero. Antarctic tundra is in the South Pole region. The polar tundra has rocky soil, while all tundra types have similar vegetation, such as mosses, liverworts, lichens, and small shrubs. Animals range from lemmings, caribou, hares, foxes, wolves, and polar bears to marmots, goats, and elk.
Environmental Threats and Territorial Disputes
The harsh tundra environment is in and of itself already a threat to its own habitats, including its flora and fauna biodiversity, due to its very cold temperatures. These characteristics make it one of the most sensitive environments on the planet to further threats as well. The tundra hides a severe secret that could contribute to its own demise. Carbon dioxide is stored underneath its permafrost soil that could be released as a greenhouse gas as a consequence of global warming. This action in turn could decimate the tundra regions all over the world. Habitat fragmentation could result due to oil and scientific exploration as well. The setting up of structures such as roads and buildings are also contributing to the thawing out of the permafrost in the tundra regions.
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