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Tundra: The Frozen Prairie
This biome circles the world in the highest northern latitude and in the southern hemisphere is found only in the Antartic Peninsula and Islands close by. Here temperatures often reach about -50°F in the winter. Tundra covers about one-fifth of the Earth's land surface. Because of the cold climate it is impossible for trees to grow, thus leaving room for low-growing plant life and wildflowers. For this reason the Tundra biome looks like a frozen-over prairie land.
In the Ice Age, massive glaciers dwelled here. As the Earth warmed these glaciers retreated leaving bare rock and scoured soils. The freezing temperatures leave deeper layers of soil frozen throughout most of the year- this condition is called permafrost. Only the top layer on the surface is able to thaw out in summer conditions. However, this occurs just briefly because summers are extremely short here. The combination of a harsh climate, the lack of nutrients in the soil, and soil being so sparse make it very hard for any type of plant life to grow.
Despite these harsh living conditions animals still manage to survive here. During the Tundra's brief summer, insects hatch out of eggs which were frozen in the top soil. Creating a vast feeding ground for birds, thousands migrate here during this time to feed on these insects. Millions of migrating waterfowl and shore birds come to the shore and lake areas in the artic tundra of Alaska during the summer months. Also, ravens, hawks, ptarmigans, and the open country owl are common. Besides birds and insects mammals dwell in this icy zone. The Caribou, artic hare, mink, weasel, lemming, wolf, wolverine, brown bear, vole and reindeer, roam this land. And the Polar bear, walrus and artic fox are commonly seen on the ice pack and coastal areas.
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