Widespread Biomes: Tundra

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Tundra is one of the most widespread biomes on the globe. Covering large regions at high latitudes and high altitudes, tundra accounts for five to ten percent of the world’s land surface (1). Studying the ecology of tundra ecosystems is particularly important regarding the subject of climate change. Since climate is changing fastest at high latitudes and altitudes, the tundra ecosystem is currently experiencing rapid changes in its natural environment (2). In addition, tundra acts as a carbon sink, with soils storing more than 90% of the carbon present in this ecosystem (3). Plant growth and litter decomposition are two main factors driving carbon accumulation and release rates. Both of these processes are sensitive to climate change, and alterations in the balance of these processes will affect whether tundra will continue to serve as a carbon sink, or eventually develop into a carbon source, and thus further the greenhouse effect (4). With high latitudes containing approximately half of global soil carbon, there is particular interest in understanding how carbon balance in the tundra ecosystem will respond to increasing temperatures (5). Low temperatures suppress soil activity, retarding decomposition and nitrogen release, which in turn reduces plant and microbial growth (6). However, with rising temperatures and melting permafrost, which is subsoil that remains frozen indefinitely, soil moisture increases. This, in turn, may increase the rate of decomposition of

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