What Are the Abiotic Factors of the Tundra?

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What Are the Abiotic Factors of the Tundra?
A tundra's abiotic factors play important roles. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Abiotic factors in an ecosystem are nonliving elements, such as soil conditions, elevation and temperature. Abiotic parts of an ecosystem play a major role in whether or not the ecosystem is capable of supporting life and determining the types of plants and animals that can successfully live there. Studying the types of abiotic factors within an ecosystem can help an individual understand the whole ecosystem better.

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The temperature of the tundra is an important consideration when looking at the types of plants and animals that live within the tundra ecosystems. Tundras have low temperatures that are at or below freezing throughout most of the year, and this requires animals to have thick fur or blubber to be resistant to the cold. The low temperatures also affect the growing season of the tundra biome, which can be as short as two months.


One feature of the tundra that affects plant life is the presence of permafrost. Permafrost is a layer of soil that is frozen throughout the entire year, which prevents many plants from putting down deep roots. Only the uppermost layer of soil thaws during the growing season of the tundra, leaving everything beneath it frozen solid. Lichens are a common type of plant found in tundras, because they do not have a root system.


Tundras, especially the arctic tundra, receive low precipitation that is usually in the form of ice or snow. Layers of ice and snow provide few places for plants to grow, and make it difficult for animals to survive. An arctic tundra receives from 6 to 10 inches of precipitation each year, according to the Center for Educational Technologies. When the snow melts, water stays on the surface of the tundra because it is unable to penetrate the permafrost.


The winds of the tundra are an abiotic feature that can cause whiteouts due to blowing snow around. These whiteouts can last for days, according to Richmond University. The strong winds are dry, and make it difficult for plants to grow. According to the University of California Museum of Paleontology, the word tundra comes from a Finnish word that means "treeless plain." The harsh tundra winds keep trees stunted or unable to grow.

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