Tundra lands have very cold, windy and dry climates. They are mainly treeless, as very few plants can grow in their cold temperatures and short growing seasons. The average temperature in tundra regions varies from around as low as -50° F in winter to as high as 10-20° F in summer. The vegetation on the tundra is mainly limited to small shrubs, grasses, mosses and lichens.
There are three main types of tundra lands, based upon where they are found. Arctic tundra is found near the Arctic Circle and includes the northernmost portions of Russia and Canada. Alpine tundra regions can be found in areas of the world with tall mountain ranges. Antarctic tundra can be found in Antarctica.
For most of the year, tundra lands are covered in snow. In fact, tundra lands feature a layer called permafrost, which is made up of frozen soil and dead plants that can extend over 1,000 feet below the surface of the ground. This layer often stays frozen all year long.
In some warmer areas, though, the top layer of tundra may melt during the summer. When it does, bogs and small lakes form, attracting all sorts of wildlife. Wildflowers may also burst into bloom, temporarily transforming the frozen tundra into a beautiful landscape.
These temporary wetland areas also attract insects, which in turn attract migratory birds. There are also several other animals that call the tundra home. Some common tundra animals include mountain goats, Arctic foxes, polar bears, gray wolves, caribou and musk oxen. These animals usually have developed special ways of surviving in the cold, dry tundra conditions.
As difficult as it is for plants and animals to survive in the tundra, it's even harder for human beings. There are very few people who live on or near the tundra. Some indigenous peoples in the Arctic regions will hunt on the tundra. In addition, mineral resources, like oil and ores, have been found in the tundra, but the tundra's climate usually makes it too difficult to find and mine these resources.