Virtual ecosystems: tundra plants
Tundra plants may seem small and insignificant, but they are worth studying for several reasons:
1.) Tundra is a hotspot of climate change. It experiences particularly strong shifts in climate conditions translating in reduced snow cover and reduced perma frost and ultimately in shifts in vegetation. Shifts in tundra vegetation and activity may also directly affect global climate given the large areas occupied by this kind of vegetation and the large amount of carbon stored in tundra soils. Tundra may serve as a carbon sink (given the increase in plant activity) or as a carbon source (given the melting of permafrost). Shifts in tundra albedo may also affect global climate.
2.) Inspite of the relatively small size of tundra plants, large numbers of animals (reindeer, many migratory birds) are relying on tundra productivity.
The video features a virtual tundra plant community composed of 4 different plants (A simple moss based more or less on Racomitrium lanuginosum, crowberries – Empetrum nigrum, reindeer lichen – Cladonia rangifera and dwarf birch – Betula nana).