Explore Topic: The Northern Treeline

Around the globe, there is a northern limit to the growth of trees know as the Northern Treeline.  Most maps of the Arctic will identify the approximate location of the treeline.  The Alaska Canada Barrenlands Traverse begins its journey in the wooded country of the Yukon River and ends in the rocky barrenlands of Baker Lake.  Have younger students locate the treeline on our route map and find the area where we will cross the treeline.  Discuss how the presence or lack of trees and wood may have shaped the human history of these areas and how it might affect kinds of animals that are found there.

For older students, studying the treeline offers a good introduction to northern ecosystems.  The treeline is generally considered the dividing line between two major ecosystems or Biomes: the Boreal Forest Biome and the Tundra Biome. The tree-fringe or zone of transition between these two biomes is called the Forest-Tundra Ecotone.  Have your students explore the concept of biomes and ecotones on their own.  Aside from tree growth, what other characteristics are used to distinguish the boreal forest and tundra biomes?

In addition to web-searches of highlighted terms, older students (grades 7&8) may find the following text reference to be useful on this topic:

  1. Steven B. Young, To the Arctic.  Wiley Science Editions.  John Wiley and Sons, Inc.




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