Compare and contrast the tundra and desert biomes.


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A biome is made of several ecosystems. Biomes are classified by distinct climates, vegetation, and wildlife. Tundra and desert are two examples of biomes. There are two kinds of tundra: the arctic tundra and the alpine tundra. Deserts may be classified as hot and dry deserts, semiarid deserts, coastal deserts, and cold deserts. For the purposes of this answer, we will compare an arctic tundra to a hot and dry desert. These two biomes are different from one another in the following ways.


  • The arctic tundra is located in northern latitudes.
  • Hot and dry deserts are often found closer to the equator.


  • Tundra are very cold. The average temperature of the tundra is -34 degrees Celsius, while the summer months average between 3-12 degrees Celsius. Therefore, the ground of the tundra stays permanently frozen and is called the permafrost.
  • Deserts have hot and dry climates. The rainfall of a desert averages less than 25 centimeters annually!


Tundra and deserts both face a scarcity in water. Therefore, the vegetation found in either biome are adapted to live in such water-barren environments.  

  • The vegetation of the tundra is also resistant to cold temperatures and winds. Therefore, more vegetation found in the tundra are low to the ground. Examples of vegetation found in the tundra are low shrubs, mosses, liverworts, grasses, and lichens.
  • Many succulents are found in a hot and dry desert. These plants, such as cacti, have thick cuticles that aid in the prevention of water loss. Many leaves of desert plants are also “replete”, which means that they are full of nutrients. As in the tundra, low shrubs are also common in the desert. Other examples of plant-life found in the hot and dry desert include prickly pears, yuccas, and agaves.  


  • The animals found in the arctic tundra are adapted to withstand the cold. Many animals in the tundra breed rapidly in the short summer months. Some may hibernate or migrate south during the winter, which results in large population oscillations throughout the year. Examples of animals that inhabit the tundra include fox, wolves, bear, caribou, snowbirds, blackflies, salmon, and trout.
  • The animals found in a dry and hot desert must be able to withstand the hot temperatures and lack of water. Two ways in which animals of a hot and dry desert to this is by being nocturnal or creating burrows in the ground. Examples of organisms that can be found in a hot and dry desert include reptiles, kangaroo rates, arachnids, and insects.


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