What Have Humans Done to Affect the Tundra?


Quick Answer

Human impact on tundra regions includes melting permafrost caused by climate change and physical damage to ecosystems and habitats resulting from the mining and extraction of oil, natural gas and other minerals. Tundras may also suffer damage from oil spills, air pollution and ozone depletion within the upper atmosphere.

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Full Answer

Tundra ecosystems are essential frozen bogs that contain very little vegetation or biodiversity. The greatest risk to tundra regions, which cover roughly one tenth of the Earth's surface, are the warmer temperatures brought about by climate change. The melting of permafrost has resulted in changing physical landscapes, habitat fragmentation which may threaten many key species and the release of soil-bound carbon dioxide which may speed the process of global warming.

Warming temperatures have already produced detectable changes in both alpine and Arctic tundra ecosystems. These changes have created an inland habitat that has become home to many invasive tree species and coastal areas that have seen a noticeable rise in regional sea levels. Tundra regions, along with boreal forests, account for roughly one third of soil-based carbon dioxide. Melting permafrost within many tundra regions has resulted in microbial decomposition of previously frozen organic matter, a process that releases carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

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