The key difference between tundra and desert is that the tundra is an extremely cold biome consisting of snow-covered lands while a desert is an extremely dry and hot biome consisting of sandy lands.
Tundra and desert are two biomes that receive very little precipitation. Tundra is a very cold region, which is full of snow all around the year. On the other hand, the desert is a biome characterized by high temperatures and one can see heat waves rising up in the air above a desert. Both biomes are sandy with little or no vegetation. Hence, these biomes are similar in the sense that both receive very little rainfall. But when considering the climate of each biome, they are different since tundra is an extremely cold environment while desert is an extremely hot environment. However, differences between tundra and desert are not limited to their climates alone as discussed in this article.
What is Tundra?
Tundra is a very cold, icy, windy and dry region near the polar ice caps that include parts of Russia, Scandinavia, Alaska, Canada, Iceland, and Greenland. Tundras of the world are mostly located in the northern hemisphere while the regions that should be tundra in the southern hemisphere are actually oceans. The ground is very hard and covered always with ice, making it impossible for living forms to survive in a tundra. Hence, very few organisms inhabit tundras. In other words, tundra is an ecosystem that lacks biodiversity making it fragile and unstable, if there is any disturbance.
In tundra, there is less than 25 cm of precipitation and the temperature rarely goes up to 100C. There is a top layer or active zone of soil that thaws during summers allowing the growth of vegetation in the form of grasses, mosses, and some other plants. And, this top layer is just 8 cm deep, and below this active zone, the soil is always frozen and never allows any vegetation. Even higher levels of precipitation cannot permeate this solid ice called permafrost below the active zone. Generally, plants that grow in a tundra are small and remain close to the ground. Furthermore, there are few predators in a tundra, making it a safe place for migratory birds to lay eggs and then to raise little birds. Moreover, there are no reptiles in a tundra.
What is a Desert?
The regions on earth where annual precipitation is less than 25 cm are classified as deserts. Deserts occupy about 20% of the earth’s surface. Deserts are mostly found in low altitude (for example, Sahara and those in Mexico) though there are many found at high altitudes such as deserts in West Asia, Utah, and Nevada in the US. They have special vegetation and have an abundance of animals, especially reptiles. Furthermore, the soil in deserts is fertile and supports vegetation. It only needs some rainfall to produce plants and trees. Because of the paucity of water, large mammals are not found in deserts. These animals do not get shelter from the scorching heat of the sun. Because of this, reptiles are the most common in deserts. Moreover, mammals in deserts are characteristically small.
There are hot deserts and also cold deserts that have snow in winters, making it difficult for plants to grow. Hot and dry deserts are present near the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn while cold deserts are located around the Arctic.
What are the Similarities Between Tundra and Desert?
- Tundra and desert are biomes.
- They both receive very little precipitation.
- Also, both are sandy environments.
- Thus, they have little or no vegetation.
- Besides, both biomes are characterized by the scarcity of water.
What is the Difference Between Tundra and Desert?
Tundra and desert are two biomes that receive very less rainfall annually. Tundra has snow-covered lands and it is an extremely cold ecosystem. On the other hand, a desert has sandy lands and it is an extremely dry and hot ecosystem. So, this is the key difference between tundra and desert. Furthermore, tundras are located near the poles of the earth while most deserts are located near the equator of the earth. Thus, this is also a significant difference between tundra and desert.
Moreover, both biomes have less flora and fauna diversity. Among the two biomes, tundra has lowest flora and fauna diversity. Therefore, we can consider this also as a difference between tundra and desert. Furthermore, when considering the vegetation, mosses and lichens are predominant in tundra while cactus, acacia, date palm, algae, grasses are predominant in deserts. A further difference between tundra and desert is that deserts are full of reptiles while reptiles are not present in a tundra.
Below infographic provides more infomation on the difference between tundra and desert.
Summary – Tundra vs Desert
Tundra and desert are two types of biomes that consist of less flora and fauna diversity due to harsh environmental conditions. Both biomes receive very low precipitation. One is extremely cold while the other one is extremely hot, making both difficult for living creatures to survive. Tundra has snow covered lands while desert has sand covered lands. Deserts receive less precipitation even than tundra. But, deserts have more diversity of flora and fauna compared to tundra. Tundra are mainly found in the poles of the earth while deserts are found near to the equator of the earth. Thus, this summarizes the difference between tundra and desert.
1. “Libya 4985 Tadrart Acacus Luca Galuzzi 2007” By I, Luca Galuzzi (CC BY-SA 2.5) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Sahale Peak” By Jeffrey Pang from Madison, NJ, USA – Sahale Arm 2Uploaded by X-Weinzar (CC BY 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia