Greenland Fauna and Vegetation

By | June 6, 2022

Climate. – Two facts appear, among the determinants, conspicuous, one in function of the other: the existence of an immense mass of ice, and the persistence, which follows, of an area of ​​high pressure between marginal depressions (Davis Strait and Iceland). The resulting atmospheric currents take on, as descendants, the characteristics of the alpine föhn, and produce analogous consequences. The formation of arid strips is due to this – with all the phenomena typical of arid regions, such as salt lakes, loss and aeolian erosions – between the edge of the ice cap and the coastline, and the typical fact that localities located in the interior of the fjords enjoy less severe temperatures than those along the seashore. Although little is known of the conditions that occur inland, it is certain that the differences between the coastal zone and the inlandsis must be considerable (the average air temperature on the cap fluctuates around – 32 °), but more important still is that the differences due to the latitude, although considerable in winter (Sagdlit, at 60 ° 16 ′ N., marks – 5 °, 4 in February; at 82 ° N. it is – 37 °, 5), they decrease a lot in summer (4 °, 4 and 3 °, 2 respectively in July) and therefore the vegetation can push up to high latitudes. On the whole there are rigid and long winters, with frequent snowfalls, and summers that are much shorter, the more one proceeds towards the N., where just three months of the year have averages above 0 °. At the same latitude, the eastern coast, lapped by the cold Greenland current, is colder than the western one, along which a warm current instead descends; the contrast is sharpened by local winds, crawling on the open sea in the second case, on ice-covered waters in the first. A place to itself is to be done at the extreme southern cusp, which falls within the domain of barometric minima: with higher temperatures, the greatest quantity of precipitation is characteristic here (Ivigtut mm. 1170 per year on average), which are instead significantly reduced as you proceed towards N., until you reach minimum values ​​on the coast near the Pole (in 82 ° it is just about 100 mm.).

Fauna. – According to Homosociety, the cold regions of Greenland, like those of all the polar lands, can only allow life to a relatively small number of animals particularly suited to withstand low temperatures. Among the most common mammals are the polar bear (Ursus maritimus), Arctic fox and blue fox (Vulpes lagopus), reindeer (Rangifer tarandus, var. Groenlandicus), muskoxen (Ovibos moschiatus), the polar hare (Lepus glacialis). Interestingly, musk ox, mice and some other mammals, especially carnivores, are kept in the northern portion of the island. The coasts are very rich in seals; the most important species include the Gray seal (Halichoerus grypus), the crested seal (Cystophora cristata) and the Greenland seal (Phoca groenlandica), this extraordinarily abundant.

Many birds spend the good season in Greenland; especially interesting are the palmipeds which eat fish and frequent the coasts. Noteworthy are the polar gull, the black gull, the glacial petrel, guillemots, loons, alkas and the curious puffins (see arctic, regions).

Reptiles and amphibians are completely lacking.

Vegetation. – Greenland is one of the best known floristic districts of the boreal domain, thanks to the diligent research of Scandinavian and Especially Danish botanists (Warming). Three main districts can be distinguished; thickets of birch or southwestern trees, shrublands and arctic fjelds. The first goes towards the N. up to 62 ° lat. and upwards up to 150 msm; is especially set aside in the deep part of the fjords and at the foot of the slopes facing at noon and the characteristic formation is made up of various species of the genus Betula (B. tomentosa var. winding, B. intermediate, B. glandulosa and Juniperus communis var. nana, Salix., glauca, Alnus ovata var. repens, Sorbus americana, forming a consortium that reaches 3-6 m. in height. The Salix glauca is, after all, whether or not pure consortia of about 2 m. in height, which are the refuge of several species of ferns and humiculous sciaphilous plants. The moor is instead a formation of suffrutic basses belonging to genera of the Ericaceae family (Cassiope, Phyllodocea, Loiseleuria, Diapensia, Ledum, Rhododendron, Arctostaphylos, Vaccinium) and others, Dryas, Empetrum, Linnaea, Thymus, and with mostly evergreen and often needle-like and green-glaucous leaves. They are interspersed with tall herbs (Archangelica), sometimes by real colonies of herbaceous species (40-60 different species on a few square meters) which interrupt the monotony of the land with their brilliant flowering, and by numerous forms of moss and lichen. In other cases the type of vegetation in this district is modified by the presence of marshes dominated by mosses and also by peat grasses or by stony or rocky areas with a fairly varied florula of taproot or creeping species. Finally the fjelds represent the true Arctic tundra and are the product of more severe environmental conditions than the previous ones; the vegetation there is sporadic, often brownish-green in color, and is predominantly formed by colonies of mosses and lichens interspersed with herbaceous plants with a rosette, pulvinus or in any case with scarce and short ramifications; Salix, Dryas). Less continuous than the previous ones, then, and the coastal formations are not very varied; the aquatic ones, dominated by a rich series of bryophytes, are still quite varied in their phanerogamic contingent.

Greenland Fauna