Physical Geography- Cold Environments


Physical Characteristics of Tundra

  • Reach temperatures of -30 degrees Celsius and the warmest temperature is 10 degrees Celsius. 
  •  There is a layer of permafrost on the soil which contains large amounts of greenhouse gases.
  • Majority of people who live there are indigenous. 
  • Few plants and animal species but they are well adapted to the environment.  
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Interdependence in Cold Environments

  • Plants gain nutrients from the soil ---- Animals eat the plants and gain nutrients. Spread the seeds in their dung. 
  • Plant cover is low---- Cold climate means plants grow slowly so they decompose slowly ---- fewer nutrients in the soil so plants grow slowly. 
  • Herbivores whorely on plants must migrate to areas where plants grow to find food. The carnivores must follow the herbivores for food. 
  • In summer, tundra has greater plant cover ----- plants absorb heat from the sun so it prevents the permafrost from thawing. 
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Adaptation of Plants and Animals


  • Adapted to a growing season of 50-60 days. 
  • Have shallow roots because of the layer of permafrost. 
  • Small and round-shaped to provide protection from the wind. 


  • Well insulated with thick fur coats. 
  • White fur to blend with snow and hide from predators. 
  • Some animals migrate to warmer areas and then return when it's warmer. 
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Opportunities and Challenges of Svalbard


  • The cold water of the Barents Sea south of Svalbard is one of the richest fishing grounds. 
  • More than 300 people have been employed in the mining industry. 
  • Many construction projects like building shops and houses, maintaining and constructing roads + services and sanitation and water and electricity which provides new jobs but also improves access to the island.  
  • Tourism has provided over 300 jobs. 


  • Can only be reached by plane or ship. 
  • Local authorities are under pressure to use more renewable energy. 
  • Temperature can drop to -30 degrees Celcius. 
  • There is not a lot of infrastructure or facilities due to the vast amounts of snow and temperature but Svalbard is trying to improve this. 
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Protecting Cold Environments

Modern construction methods can minimise environmental impacts e.g. elevating buildings 

Governments can make laws to protect cold environments. 

Conservation groups can pressure governments to protect cold environments that are at risk of being damaged. 

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