Characteristics of a tundra biome include large, open areas with no trees; snow and cold temperatures throughout most of the year; little rainfall; and short growing seasons. Tundra is most common around the Arctic, but it also exists near the tops of tall mountains.
The word "tundra" comes from "tunturi," a Finnish word that refers to treeless plains. Tundra is one of the most extreme biomes on Earth, mostly because of its harsh, cold temperatures and lack of fresh water, which create a desert-like environment. The tundra around the Arctic has an average temperature of 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Permafrost is a unique feature of a tundra environment. Permafrost reaches from the ground to over 1,000 feet below the surface and is composed of frozen soil and dead plants.
Few plants live in tundra, as the growing season lasts for only 50 to 60 days in some places. Among the plants that live in this harsh environment are sedges, reindeer mosses and liverworts. Polar bears, arctic hares, snow buntings, ravens and arctic bumble bees are among the small numbers of animals that live in tundra biomes. Animals that live in tundra have special adaptations, such as extra layers of fat, that enable them to survive.