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Arctic plants mostly fall under the biome of the tundra.
Plants that grow in these areas are generally smaller in height, and they grow together. Arctic moss is the most common plant in the tundra region.
Pasque flower is also common in the Arctic. It adapts to the environment as it is covered by fine, silky hairs. Most plants of the tundra region are small in height as the growth of trees and other plants are severely cut short by extreme climatic conditions and scarcity of water. However, life goes on, and these plants have developed different characteristics and adaptive methods to combat the harsh climate and other factors. Here, we will check out the different survival techniques of these plants.
If you find our content interesting, then do check out Antarctica facts and our article about animals in the Arctic!
Be it flowering plants or non-flowering plants, plants can grow in extremely cold temperatures. Plantlife is one of the most unique forms of life on this planet. Here, we will check out some of the cool facts about plants that grow on frozen ground.
While it is very hard for plants to survive in low temperatures and other extreme conditions, plant and tree growth is quite evident in frozen grounds and permafrosts. Plants essentially need sunlight, water, and important nutrients from the soil. However, plants survive by making certain changes to their structure. The plants that are found in the tundra zones are known as tundra vegetation, and they push their roots deeper into the soil so that these roots can reach the freshwater that is located below the topsoil. Once the snow melts, when winter passes by, the plant life gets a sudden growth spurt. Melting of the thin layer of ice leads to the formation of moist soil that helps in the growth of plants. In the polar regions, especially the Arctic regions, once the snow from the ground melts, thick, dense plants grow and form a forest. This arctic flora is called a boreal forest. Arctic species of boreal forests consist of pines and conifer trees.
Whenever there is an abundance of frozen ground and the presence of huge chunks of snow on the soil, the growth of grasses, different species of trees, and flowers is greatly reduced. This special kind of biome is known as tundra. Tundra is often referred to as cold deserts as these places do not receive enough water, and thus, they are also one of the driest as well as the coldest regions of the planet. Yet, when the snow melts from solar energy, swamps and wetlands are formed. The key reason for this is the presence of the permafrost. It acts as an insulating barrier and does not let water pass through it.
Change of climates is a naturally occurring phenomenon that happens every year. After summer comes the fall, followed by winter and then spring, and the cycle of season change repeats. Apart from summers in some places, the ground soil in the tundra biome is covered with ice. Some places remain below - 32 F (0 C) all the time, and thus, they are referred to as permafrost. However, the presence of permafrost does not necessarily mean no growth of plants or vegetation.
Unlike animals and other organisms, plants cannot migrate to warmer climates or hibernate during the winter. Therefore, plants develop certain abilities to tackle the harsh climate. Plants usually survive the cold winters and grow during summer and spring. Both plants and the snow maintain a balance of equilibrium amongst themselves so that they both can benefit from the circumstances. Plants absorb the energy from the sun and do not lose it in the surrounding, thereby preventing the snow and ice from melting. On the other hand, the permafrost keeps the melted water near the soil surface so that the plants can use it to their benefit.
Regardless of the extreme conditions of the planet, life is so powerful that it can survive the harshest of conditions. Here, we will check out some of the plants that live in the Arctic and Antarctic conditions.
It has been estimated that over 1700 different species of plants are found in the Arctic pole. These include the likes of flowers, mosses, lichens, shrubs, and bushes that grow on the snowy ground. Since the ground is almost always covered by snow, the roots of these plants cannot go deeper into the ground, and thus, small-sized plants are found here. Plants that grow in the tundra are usually concentrated over small patches of land as they grow together. A few examples of plants that grow in the Arctic pole are Arctic willow, purple saxifrage, pasque flower, Arctic poppy, and other similar plants. Different species of lichen and algae are also found here. These lichens serve as food for migratory animals.
The count of plant life in Antarctica is much lower in comparison to the North Pole. Since the entire continent lies under a dense sheet of ice and sea ice, hardly any flowers or other plants can grow. However, a few species of plants and algae can also be seen here. These include 300 species of moss, 300 different species of algae like the red algae and the brown algae, and also 150 different species of lichens. As far as vascular plants are concerned, only two different vascular plants can be found here. They are Antarctic pearlwort and the Antarctic hair grass. These plants can survive in Antarctica as they don't have a well-developed root system.
Surviving in the harsh conditions of the poles is extremely difficult for any plant or vegetation. However, some species have survived by beating all the odds. So, let us find out how Arctic plants adapt to their environment.
Plants often undergo numerous wonderful and marvelous adaptations to survive under harsh and extreme climatic conditions. Adaptations in the Arctic tundra are very common. In the cold climate, plants cannot afford to lose water from their body owing to a scarcity of water in the surroundings. Thus, plants like pines and confers have special adaptations in their leaves. The leaves are tiny and pointed in nature. The tiny and pointed shape means a smaller surface area of the plant leaves, and thus, there can be less loss of water via transpiration. These leaves also have waxy coatings on them, which further helps in controlling water loss from the plant.
The growing season of plants in the tundra region is extremely fast. With the onset of summer, the ice and the snow in the ground start to melt. The liquid water from the melted snow remains close to the surface of the topsoil, and these special plants like lichens, shrubs, algae, mosses, and grasses start growing extremely fast, taking full advantage of the warmth of the long summer days. This fast-growing mechanism of some species of trees and flowers is a unique adaptation by plants, and this gives rise to boreal forests in the tundra region.
Surviving the harsh winters of the Arctic regions is extremely difficult; however, there are some plants that, with the help of their adaptive features, make bold moves of growth under such tumultuous, climatic conditions. One such example is the Arctic willow. This woody shrub is the only plant that grows above the tree line in the tundra region.
The barberry is another evergreen tree that grows in the Arctic tundra winter conditions. This plant has special adaptations in its leaf. The presence of silky hairs helps in adjusting the temperature of the plant, and a leather-like coating on the surface of the leaves helps to prevent loss of water from the plant via the process of transpiration. Cottongrass is a species of shrubs that grows in the Arctic winter. It mimics the white snow with its fluffy, white colors. These plants also have dense bristles and narrow leaves to prevent water loss. Cottongrass happens to be food for migratory birds like the snow geese.
The ability of an organism to become adapted to its surrounding is very vital, and the same can be said for different species of plants. Here, we will see how the plants have adapted to changes in the climate.
Our planet Earth is subdivided into three distinct zones based on the amount of sunlight and heat it receives from the sun. These three zones are the torrid zone, temperate zone, and frigid zone. The torrid zone is located near the equator, while the temperate zone lies between the torrid zone and the poles. And lastly comes the frigid zone, which extends beyond the temperate zones and is confined to both the poles, that is, north and south.
The frigid zone essentially lies under the blankets of ice. Tundra forms a major biome under this frigid zone. However, of late, owing to climate change, both plant and animal lives have been affected, and as a result, to survive, they have made certain adaptations against climate change.
Climate change is one of the most dangerous things that has left a deep impact on our environment over the years. Human beings are largely responsible for having a direct connection to climate change. Overuse of fossil fuels, destruction of lands, habitat, and forests, pollution of air, water, and soil, and other actions have caused a great deal of harm to our climate. One of the most important causes of climate change is the greenhouse effect by carbon dioxide emissions that has raised the temperature of the Earth every year. This rise in temperature is directly responsible for the melting of the polar caps and sea ice and thus, increasing the water level of the sea.
As a direct consequence of climate change, both plant and animal life have suffered, and many organisms and species have faced extinction. However, those organisms that used the ability of adaption have survived.
The same can be said for some species of arctic flower plants. Studies and researches have shown that around nine species in the Arctic have used climate change to their benefit and have effectively spread across more ground. The climatic conditions helped the dispersal of seeds of the plant by air, water, and ground.
Bioclimate subzones in the Arctic are divided owing to the type of vegetation that is found here. Let us look at them in more detail.
There are five subzones named Subzone A, Subzone B, Subzone C, Subzone D, and Subzone E. Subzone E is the warmest while Subzone A is the coldest.
Subzone A is almost always covered by a dense fog. This zone is found in Amund Ringnes, King Christian, and other nearby islands. In Subzone B, few plants are found in the cracks of the ground. This zone is found in Greenland, east of Svalbard, and in Central Novaya Zemlya. Subzone C is comparably warmer, and Victoria Island, Devon Island, and Prince of Wales Island are the areas that fall under this zone. Temperate winds are predominant in Subzone D, where boreal forests are found here. Baffin Island, Southern Greenland, Siberia, and Chukotka fall under Subzone D. Hypoarctic shrubs are the vascular plants that are found in Subzone E, which is the warmest area among these zones. Parts of Siberia and Alaska fall in this zone.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Arctic plants, then why not take a look at Arctic characteristics or Arctic Ocean facts?
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