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Arctic tundra biome vulnerable to climate warming

This article is part of a series highlighting issues from working group CAFF’s landmark Arctic Biodiversity Assessment. This week focuses on Arctic vegetation.

The arctic tundra biome is characterized by low-growing vegetation composed of low shrubs, sedges, grasses, forbs, lichens and mosses.

As this map illustrates, the continental portion of the Arctic tundra occupies a thin strip of land between the Arctic Ocean and the boreal forest. Within this strip of land, differences in average July air temperatures lead to important variations in the total amount of summer warmth available for growth. This results in major differences in vegetation that help to distinguish five distinct bioclimate subzones, as marked by different color schemes on this map.

The tundra biome is extremely vulnerable to climate warming due to three of its distinct features: 1) the strong climatic influence of the nearby sea, 2) narrow bioclimate zone associated with the coastline, and 3) extensive lowland plains near most of the Arctic coast.

Click here to read more from the “Terrestrial Ecosystems” chapter of the ABA.

For more biodiversity graphics, please visit the Arctic Biodiversity Data Service:

Image credit: CAFF. To see the full-size graphic, please click the link in the article.