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The Tundra lies between 55º and 70º latitude north, with the coldest, driest, and most brutal conditions for life on Earth. The youngest biome, formed just 10,000 years ago, stretches bleakly across a flat, treeless landscape. Tundra is taken from the Finnish word tunturia, meaning "barren ground." Parts of Greenland, northern Canada, and polar cap belong to the arctic Tundra.
A layer of permafrost covers the ground of the arctic sections of the northern continents. An active layer of permafrost might partially defrost for a few months during the mild summers, but the inactive layer is permanently frozen. If low precipitation and little sunlight were not enough to discourage vegetation, the permafrost prevents plant roots from reaching far underground. The soil has some nutrients with organic matter contributing nitrogen and the rain making phosphorous. During the abbreviated two month growing season moss, lichen, liverwort, and a few flowering plants with shallow root systems manage to grow. They survive on a mere 6-10 inches (15-25 cm) of rain per year.
Animal biodiversity is understandably low in an area with an endless winter and poor light. Giant mammals, like the musk ox and polar bear eke out a living due to specialized adaptations. Their coats are thick and waterproof; their sense of smell acute. The Arctic fox doesn't even need to hibernate since it can withstand very low temperatures. Shrews and hares scamper from burrows to provide food for the snowy owl.
Strangely, the Tundra possesses a rare ecology that makes it a "carbon sink." This means that Tundra removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere because it absorbs more of the gas than it creates. The absence of much biomass means there is little organic decay. Reducing the amount of carbon dioxide helps to combat the increasing threat of global warming, which has already damaged the Arctic zone by melting glaciers.