Ways People Have Destroyed the Tundra

Updated July 20, 2017

The tundra is the coldest of the world's major biomes. Tundra stretches across Alaska, northern Canada and northern Russia. Rocky mountaintops, often snow-covered, make up the alpine tundra. Besides low temperatures, the tundra is characterised by low precipitation, a short growing season and little vegetation. The landscape consists of frozen hills and grassy flat plains, with trees closer to the southern boundary of the tundra. As with all other biomes, humans are contributing to its destruction.

Loss of Habitat

Though the tundra is a less-than-ideal location for human habitation, there are still small towns spread out across it. Most are native communities, but some have sprang up more recently to exploit the tundra's natural resources. Tundra is rich in fossil fuels and minerals, such as gold, copper and diamonds. Buildings, roads and other infrastructure often disrupt the migration patterns of wildlife, reducing their populations.

Environmental Degradation

Pollution is a major cause of destruction of the tundra. Mining and the extraction of fossil fuels are creating air and water pollution. Open pit mines are causing large scars on the landscape, and the tundra is becoming virtually impossible to restore. Oil spills on both land and water are not uncommon.

Global Warming

The steadily rising temperature of the Earth has also had a huge impact on the tundra. Most of the world's glaciers are in the Arctic and Antarctic and greenhouse gasses, thought to be caused by human activity, are a major cause of the rapid ice melt. The result is predicted to be rising water tables and coastal flooding. The permafrost is also threatened.

Hunting and Invasive Species

Caribou, seals, reindeer and even polar bears have been recklessly hunted across the tundra. Their numbers have dropped significantly, as have those of salmon and whales. As more species become endangered, governments are placing restrictions on the number of animals that can be hunted. Non-native species also are being introduced to the tundra, inadvertently and intentionally. Without natural predators, their numbers can grow unchecked, choking out native plants and animals.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Robina Sharma has been an online editor and writer since 2007. Her writing has appeared in “Crow Toes Quarterly,” “Education Canada” and on She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and sociology from the University of Toronto.