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Difference between Tundra and Desert

Desert and tundra are two types of biomes. Both the biomes experience less precipitation due to this they have a less diversity of flora and fauna as compared to other biomes like savanna, grasslands, chaparral etc. Let us see how they differ from each other!


Tundra is a biome with the snow-covered land. It is one the coldest and fiercest biome on Earth. Its average temperature is - 25 degrees centigrade. The summer is of very short duration in this biome with an average temperature of 10-degree centigrade.

It lies in the North of the Arctic Circle and in the Arctic peninsula in the southern hemisphere. The vegetation in tundra mainly comprises grasses and lichens with broad and shallow roots in order to support them during strong and icy winds. Harsh weather, the absence of soil and lack of nutrients make it a difficult place to survive. The animals that are commonly found in tundra include deer, caribou, mice, wolves, weasels etc.


Desert is the direst biome on the Earth. It receives very less rainfall which is usually less than 25 cm in a year. A desert biome can be of four types: hot and dry, semiarid, coastal and cold. The Sahara desert of Africa and sonorant desert of Arizona are hot deserts, whereas the Gobi desert in China and the Great Basin in the USA are cold deserts.

Deserts generally have less vegetation. The plants in deserts do not grow very tall and often adapted to store water in their stems, e.g. cactus. They also have reduced leaves to reduce the loss of water through transpiration. The animals in the desert usually live in burrows or under the rocks. They are more active during the night and remain underground during the day to stay cool.

Based on the above information, some of the key differences between tundra and desert are as follows:

Tundra Desert
It is a biome with snow-covered lands. It is a dry biome that can have sandy or icy land.
It is a dry and extremely cold biome. It is the direst biome on the Earth.
It is located near the North pole of the Earth. It is located towards the equator.
It experiences very low temperature around -25 degrees centigrade and it is always cold. A desert may be hot or cold, e.g. hot deserts and cold deserts.
Vegetation is rare and mostly includes mosses and lichens. Vegetation of hot desert includes cactus, acacia, date palm etc., and of cold desert includes algae, grasses etc.
It has more precipitation than desert. Precipitation is less than tundra.
It has fewer grass spots. It is mostly grassy.
It snows in the tundra. Snowfall occurs only in cold deserts.
It has less diversity of plants and animals than desert. It has more diversity of plants and animals.
Animals commonly found in tundra include a polar bear, arctic fox, arctic seal, musk ox, harlequin etc. Animals in hot deserts include foxes, jackrabbits, kangaroo rats, pocket mice, badger etc., and in cold deserts include fennec foxes, dung beetles, sidewinder snakes, Mexican coyotes etc.
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