There are far fewer plant and animal species in the north than at lower latitudes. Still, the Arctic is home to more than 21,000 species: mammals, birds, fish, invertebrates, plants and fungi (Arctic Biodiversity Assessment 2013: Species Diversity in the Arctic).
Arctic animals and plants have adapted to cold and dark in many ways. The species of animals that live all year round in the north are characterised by a thick coat of fur or feather that keeps them warm in frost and wind. The animals store fat before winter and use the snow cover as a protection against the cold.
Adaptation to changing conditions is facilitated by factors related to the activities and characteristics of the animals, such as changes in colour and metabolism. Some animals hibernate during the winter to survive the long winter. Migratory birds, for their part, prefer the Arctic in the summer, when there is plenty of food and sunlight.
During the short growing season, the plants make effective use of the rays of the sun, for example, with their low structure and cup-like flowers. Wax or hair on stems, leaves and buds protect the plants from wind and cold.
Glacier Buttercup (Ranunculus glacialis) is the northernmost flowering plant in the world. Photo: Anna-Liisa Ylisirniö