Habitats: Mountains

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By Gillian Ravenscroftscience coordinator and freelance writer

Discover the animals and plants that live in high, remote montane zones


Mountain habitats are defined by altitude. These habitats range upwards through grass and wooded areas to heathland and, ultimately, to the ‘montane zone’ lying beyond the natural tree line above 600 metres. To survive in the mountains, animal and plant species have to contend with short, wet and windy growing seasons followed by long, cold winters. Hard acidic rock provides little by way of nutrients in the montane zone and, where soil does form, it is thin and easily eroded. Under such adverse conditions, life clings to the very margins of existence. The boggy or dry upland heaths that lie just below the montane zone support a wider range of plants and animals. While mountains remain relatively remote places, their fragile equilibrium is under threat: from increasing numbers of people who seek to make recreational use of the areas and – more insidiously – from climate changes arising from global warming.


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