Plants in different biomes have different growing conditions due to varying environmental factors. So why are plants in the Alpine biome typically low growing?
Plants in the Alpine grow lower than their counterparts from around the world. But why does this happen? Also, is this advantageous for these plants?
In short, the Alpine biome typically has plants that are low growing mainly because of the limited nutrients that those plants have access to. Because landslides are a normal occurrence in the Alpine biome, it washes away rich nutrients in the soil that's necessary for proper plant growth.
The Alpine biome significantly contributes to the overall environment because of its high altitude. While the biome does not contain any trees, it is home to over 200 species of plants. Humans also use the Alpine biome for manufacturing, mining, and, of course, tourism.
We've studied plants in the Alpine biome for years now, and we know all about why these plants grow so low in this biome.
The Alpine Biome
The Rocky Mountains, the British Alps, and the Andes are all examples of Alpine biomes found in mountainous places across the world. The Alpine biome is found at altitudes of around 10,000 feet. Alpine biomes may be found at high altitudes all around the world. Perennial grasses, lichens, mosses, and forbs, are among some of the plants that thrive in the Alpine biome.
Why Are Plants Smaller in the Alpine Biome?
While the Antarctic and Arctic tundras may be found at the Earth's northern and southern poles, Alpine tundra can be found on mountains between the tree line and the snowline. Plants that grow there seem to have adapted to the Alpine biome's arid environment. So, why do plants in the Alpine biome have such a slow growth rate? Simply put, because of a lack of appropriate nutrition and severe winter circumstances.
They only have a limited supply of nutrients. They have an excessive amount of access to water. Because life is tough in certain zones, they develop slowly because they have limited access to nutrients. This is due to the fact that landslides often occur, stripping the soil of the nutrients that these plants need to grow.
As a result, the growth of plants in the Alpine biome is slowed significantly. They only get a small amount of sunshine as compared to forests, which is why trees are not common in Alpine biomes. Alpine regions have been shown to contain plant communities that are substantially influenced by positive plant interactions due to biogenic amelioration.
Animals of the Alpine Biome
Many warm-blooded animals and a few bug species live in this area. How do these creatures cope with the cold, though? Well, they hibernate, migrate to warmer climates, or protect their bodies with hair and fat layers. Furthermore, these creatures' legs, ears, and tails are usually short, which helps to reduce heat loss. They also have bigger lungs and more blood cells in their bodies. Alpine animals' blood can function at lower oxygen levels than those found at higher elevations.
Plants of the Alpine Biome
Bright winds, abnormally low carbon dioxide and temperatures, and strong sunshine define the Alpine habitat, making it difficult for plants to survive. Plants have a difficult difficulty performing photosynthesis when there is a lack of carbon dioxide.
Alpine biomes are characterized by little groundcover plants as a result of the windy weather. It takes longer for these plants to develop and propagate. They keep as close to the ground as possible to protect themselves from the cold and wind. Furthermore, due to the low temperatures, these plants degrade slowly after death. As a result, the soil is in terrible condition. The majority of plants in Alpine biomes have evolved to flourish on rocky and sandy soil.
It's also worth noting that plants in the Alpine biome contain an anti-freeze molecule that coats and protects them from the cold. This prevents the plants from freezing to death. They have a unique root system as well. Instead of growing vertically downward, the roots spread and expand horizontally. This type of root development prevents the roots from reaching the permafrost soil, causing the plants to die due to water loss.
Alpine biomes have a rather changeable climate. You can't use a basic climate scheme to describe the climate of this type of biome. As you climb a mountain, the temperature drops by around 50 degrees Fahrenheit for every 3000 feet.
The biome has a lengthy, frigid winter season that lasts around nine months. Summer temperatures typically range from 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. However, these temps can change from mild to cold within a day. The amount of precipitation in Alpine biomes varies a lot, yet they're typically dry. In actuality, the regions receive around a foot (30 cm) of rain every year. Despite this, because of the constantly cold temperatures, snow may linger on the ground for a long time.
The Alpine biome is found at high altitudes, where there is plenty of oxygen but relatively little carbon dioxide. CO2 is required for photosynthesis to take place. Because the weather is blustery, most plants in the Alpine grow low to the ground to defend themselves from the elements. Low-lying plants are sluggish to develop and reproduce. Because of the cold, the breakdown of plants and animal waste is slowed, resulting in a lack of fundamental nutrients for plant development in the soil.
The Alpine biome is found on the peaks and slopes of mountains. It is also found above timberline on high-mountain ranges. On warmer equator-facing slopes, the tree line usually occurs at a high height. The Alpine biome is defined by rough and shattered terrain, with rock-strewn, snow capped peaks and cliffs, due to the fact that it is only found on mountains. Talus slopes are another notable characteristic.
It's worth mentioning that the landscape in various parts of this biome ranges from moderately undulating to nearly flat. The tree line increases roughly 250 feet in various spots as you travel one degree south. Between 30 degrees N and 20 degrees S, the tree line is roughly consistent at 2 to 2.5 miles.
Alpine biomes may be found at high altitudes in any latitude throughout the planet. The Alpine biome may be found in montane grassland and shrubland habitats all around the world. The Alpine biome includes the Himalayas, a large portion of the Tibetan Plateau is covered by the Caucasus Mountains. The Scandinavian Mountains, Scottish Highlands, and Africa's Rift Mountains, just to name a few.
Human Impact on the Alpine Biome
Perhaps most noticeable is the clear change in the scenery. Many communities in the upper lateral valleys have transformed into lowland suburbs as a result of the conversion of the main river valleys into linear conurbations of concrete and asphalt to suit the booming tourist trade. The substantial reduction in air quality is one of the most evident consequences of this increase.
Factory pollution is compounded by pollution from residential heating, and motor vehicle exhausts, a scenario exacerbated by temperature inversions and weather situations with little breeze. Many of the bigger Alpine communities suffer from significant local air pollution, and certain valleys can be choked with polluted air for weeks.
The pristine beauty encouraged early tourists to the Alps, and it was from this inspiration that the Alpine region's present fame arose. However, with popularity came expansion, and the influence of so many people began to degrade the Alpine ecosystem in the mid-twentieth century.
As a result, air quality has deteriorated, water pollution in rivers and lakes has increased, noise pollution has increased, ski slopes and roads have led to slope erosion, solid and organic waste has been dumped, erosion from rock, sand, and gravel quarrying for construction has increased, and forests have been weakened by acid rain. The Alps' distinctive environment and vegetation, which inspired early visitors, are being irreversibly transformed.
About THE AUTHOR
James Parker has a Masters degree in Sustainability with a focus on land management, permaculture and regenerative agriculture. He also has experience managing sustainability projects, and is passionate about conservation and sustainability.Read More About James Parker