Why doesn’t Tundra region have trees?« Back to Questions List

One of the world’s coldest regions is the Tundra region. The word Tundra comes from the word ‘tunturia’ meaning treeless plain. It is separated into two types – arctic  and  tundra. Arctic Tundra is in the Northern hemisphere in the Arctic Circle. Alpine Tundra is any region located on mountains worldwide at high altitudes where trees cannot grow. Tundra region has an unusually cold and dry weather with scanty rainfall.

tundra region, tree

The Arctic Tundra covers about 5 million square miles – one tenth of the earth’s land surface north of the tree line. Plant growth here is limited not only by cold but also by wind, drought and long winter darkness. A permanently frozen layer of soil, called permafrost stops roots from getting deep. This permafrost is the foundation for much of the region’s unique ecosystem. Though the plant’s growing tips endure harsh conditions, it could not form a root system capable of supporting much in the way of height. Soil is poor and constantly churned by alternate freezing and thawing (weather becomes warmer and causes snow and ice to melt). Furthermore, the soil lies insecurely over the permafrost. 

No trees doesn’t mean no life in the region. Though the living conditions are too harsh for survival, there are low shrubs, mosses and grasses in both arctic and alpine  regions. There is a community of insects like mosquitoes, flies, moths, grasshoppers etc thriving on them and migratory birds feed on these insects in the arctic tundra. Tundra regions house animals like mountain goats, sheep, arctic fox, polar bear, caribou, reindeer etc.


The permafrost comprises about 24% of northern hemisphere land. It has a store of about 14% of earth’s carbon. Global warming has resulted melting of permafrost in the southern Arctic. This means that the stored carbon is released in the form of carbon dioxide and methane which are powerful heat trapping gases. If this continues to happen, scientists fear that the arctic tundra would become a carbon source from being a carbon sink by mid 2020s.


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