Ecosystems are interdependent, and cold environments are no exception. The abiotic (non-living) and biotic (living) components are closely linked, and a change in one component leads to numerous changes in others.
Due to the low biodiversity of cold environments, these ecosystems are delicate and can easily be disrupted by minor changes. Climate change is damaging the natural order of cold environments. For example, polar bears rely on ice to hunt and for their breeding cycle. As the ice melts due to increasing temperatures, the polar bears lose their way of life.
Another example is the food chain in Antarctica, reliant on phytoplankton. This is illustrated below:
Phytoplankton is a single-celled organism that is one of a few producers in Antarctica. As there are very few plants, it’s crucial to the food web of Antarctica. Phytoplankton depend on ocean currents carrying nutrients to them, and without it, they’ll die. If that happens, the food web will collapse, and many species will struggle to survive.
Every biotic and abiotic component within cold environments is reliant on another, making them vulnerable due to limited biodiversity.
If you’d like to learn more about interdependency, please click here.
Adaptation refers to the changes that flora and fauna undergo to survive in each ecosystem. Successful adaptation is necessary for a species to thrive; failed adaptations can lead to eventual extinction.
Cold environments present unique challenges, not least of which are the extreme temperatures that many plants and animals would fail to survive in.
Plants must adapt to challenging conditions in cold environments, where biodiversity is lower compared to many other ecosystems.
Polar regions present a more difficult environment for plants, while tundra regions offer more nutrient availability and greater variety. In the Tundra, the soil is frozen for most of the year, with very little light in winter. However, in summer, the top layer of soil thaws, becoming boggy and waterlogged.
Some plant adaptations in the tundra include:
Animals in cold environments must adapt to the same conditions as plants, and they are among the most striking examples of evolutionary adaptation to extreme conditions. Some adaptations found in these animals include:
|Interdependent||Two or more components depending on each other for survival|
|Permafrost||A thick subsurface layer of soil that remains below the freezing point throughout the year|