I was asked a good question by somebody through the "
Ask A Biologist
"What is the biome of Antarctica? Some say it is a Tundra Biome and some say it is a Desert or Ice Biome. What is the right answer?"
It's a great question, so I thought I'd put my answer here, too! (It's also on the Ask A Biologist website.)
The important thing to remember about Antarctica is that it's a big continent. It's larger than the United States, which has many different biomes! Most of Antarctica is a desert, yes. Of course, it is a very different type of desert than most people think about, because most people think of deserts as being hot places with a lot of cacti, and that's not what Antarctica looks like! So, I think a lot of people call Antarctica a tundra because they don't know that a desert could be very cold. Scientists that work in Antarctica mostly refer to the majority of the continent as being cold desert or polar desert. The difference between cold and polar desert is very technical, mainly dealing with mineral salt chemistry. Some say that the coastal soils around the bulk of the continent are polar deserts while the rest of the continent (not near the ocean) is cold desert. Some people, though, use the terms interchangeably.