Green, White, and Windy
This tundra ecoregion is not only cold, but also very windy. Both these factors, along with the permafrost, limit the growth of most trees, yielding a landscape that is dominated by grasses, wildflowers, and sparse shrubs. Herds of reindeer visit these grasslands in the summer, when the regions turns from white to lush green and the flowers add a carpet of color to an otherwise barren scene.
The Kola Peninsula pokes up like a fat thumb at the northwestern edge of Scandinavia. Numerous rivers cut across the landscape and flow into the Barents Sea and the White Sea; many lakes dot the tundra. Shrub tundra forms on depressions inland and is characterized by dwarf birch and cloudberry. The coastal tundra supports stony and shrub lichens. Although most of this ecoregion lies above the Arctic Circle, the climate is relatively mild--due partly to the number of lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water surrounding the peninsula. Here mountain ranges are interspersed with abundant wetlands, and open grasslands give way to coniferous forests.
In this land of winter ice and snow, herds of caribou support the hardy Laplanders, who migrate with these hoofed mammals. Reindeer (caribou) migrate in winter to the boreal forests and in summer back out to the tundra, where they raise their calves. Other animals found here include polar bears, red foxes, and arctic foxes, which are white in winter and gray/brown in summer (if they are not the blue variety). Wolverines also prowl this ecoregion, searching for rodents, birds, and fruit. Moose (elk) are common in the area and in summer can be found wading along a lake edge feeding on aquatic plants. However, in the winter they rely on pine branch twigs and aspen bark for food.
Cause for Concern
Russian military nuclear waste poses a major threat to this ecoregion. Evidence of contamination from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, an accident that occurred in 1986 at Russia’s Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and which contaminated a wide area of Europe with radiation, has been found in the flesh of reindeer and other animals of this region.
For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001