Limiting Factors in a Tundra

Limiting Factors in a Tundra
••• Noel Hendrickson/Photodisc/GettyImages

The term "limiting factors" refers to environmental stresses inherent in the ecology of a particular area that limit the procreation and expansion of some organisms. Some animals and plants may fare better than others under certain conditions, and some organisms have evolved to tolerate and even thrive in harsh environments. But others will be prevented from achieving their full biological potential -- population density, physiological development, and health -- by the area's limiting factors. In a tundra, a relatively harsh ecosystem for supporting some species, some organisms thrive while others barely hang on due to limiting factors like temperature, nutrient availability and moisture levels. Only animals who can tolerate the cold temperatures and maneuver through snow and darkness can thrive in a tundra.

Temperature

The tundra has the coldest and driest climates on the planet. In the winter months, temperatures can drop as low as -94 F (-70 C). The springtime and summer seasons are warm enough to melt snow, but the highest temperatures the tundra sees are around 54 F (12 C). The average temperatures for a full year, and for each season, even summer, are very low, and this limiting factor is a primary one in determining what types of life can thrive, or even survive, in a tundra.

Sunlight

Located closer to Earth's poles, the tundra sees months of almost complete darkness during the winter months. The summer brings almost constant sun. Sunlight, its duration per day and the qualities of the light itself, present limiting factors for plant and animal life in the tundra. With such volatile changes in the sunlight cycle, photosynthesis is not triggered on the optimum schedule. Plants are not able to flower or reproduce effectively, and this inhibits the food supply for herbivorous and omnivorous animals.

Moisture

With an annual precipitation rate of 6 to 10 inches, the tundra is comparable to a desert environment in terms of moisture. That moisture is primarily snow, which melts in the spring and summer. However, the permafrost layer underneath the soil in a tundra prevents moisture from absorbing into the ground. Lakes and streams form in the summer above the permafrost.

Related Articles

Tundra Characteristics
What Is the Sun's Role in Photosynthesis?
Abiotic & Biotic Factors of Polar Regions
Factors That Affect the Tundra's Climate
How Does an Ecosystem Survive?
Does the Tundra Have Rain?
Description of Tundra
Orbital Radius vs. Planetary Radius
Alaskan Tundra Facts
Abiotic Factors of a Desert Ecosystem
What Is the Celsius Temperature Range on Venus?
What Kind of Flowers Are in the Tundra Biome?
Conservation of Energy in the Tundra Biome
What Is the Average Rainfall for a Tundra Climate?
What Are the Functions of Photosynthesis?
Fast Facts on Biomes in the Tundra
Difference Between Taiga & Tundra
Human Uses of the Tundra
Tropical Rain Forest Biome Landscape Features
What Percentage of Carbon Dioxide Makes Up the Earth's...