Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mountain biome

          The mountain biome is harsh. The higher you climb the harsher it becomes due to the thinner atmosphere, high winds, and low temperatures. The type of flora and fauna change from the bottom to the top as the climate changes and the soil thins. The mountain biome has the largest variety of ecosystems and they will vary with the location of the mountain. I.e. the ecosystems of the Alps will not be the same as those of the Andes. The mountain biome is the most difficult to study as a whole because the fauna and flora varies from mountain range to mountain range.
            Mountains are usually found in groups called chains or ranges, although some stand alone. A mountain biome is very cold and windy. The higher the mountain, the colder and windier the environment. There is also less oxygen at high elevations.Several different types of plants and animals found in the mountain biome were left behind with the melting of the ice sheets as they retreated north at the end of the last ice age.

           The animals of this biome have adapted to the cold, the lack of oxygen, and the rugged landscape. They include the mountain goat, ibex (wild goat), sheep, mountain lion, puma, and yak. All of them are excellent climbers, which means they can move freely in the steep, rocky landscape. Types of plants vary depending on geographic location and altitude. Lower elevations are commonly covered by forests, while very high elevations are usually treeless.

               One common trait among the mountain biome fauna is that most of them are plant eaters. Such as the yak, mountain goat, the takin, ibex, chinchillas. Flora that can be found in most mountain biomes includes heather, lichens, coniferous tress, and chaparral.

                Mountains are a common sight on this planet. They make up one-fifth of the world's landscape, and provide homes to at least one-tenth of the world's people. Furthermore, 2 billion people depend on mountain ecosystems for most of their food, hydroelectricity, timber, and minerals. About 80 per cent of our planet's fresh water originates in the mountains. Since about half of the world's people are reliant upon mountains for fresh water, and in this time of increasing water scarcity, it is becoming increasingly important to protect the mountain biome.

                 All mountain ecosystems have one major characteristic in common--rapid changes in altitude, climate, soil, and vegetation over very short distances. Mountain ecosystems sport a high range of biodiversity, and are also a home to many of our planet's ethnic minorities. These cultures are sometimes 'protected' due to the challenging environment to produce a living, but others are not. More and more these indigenous people are being kicked out of their homes due to population and commercial growth, logging, and mining.

                 Rainfall varies greatly across the world's montane (mountain) biomes, ranging from very wet to very dry. However in all the biomes comes swift weather changes. For example, in just a few minutes a thunder storm can roll in when the sky was perfectly clear, and in just a few hours the temperatures can drop from extremely hot temperatures to temperatures that are below freezing.

                The world's mountains provide a home to several thousand different ethnic groups. The mountain people, which mainly consist of indigenous people, ethnic minorities, and refugees, have been able to cope with this harsh environment of the mountain ecosystem. They live as nomads, hunters, foragers, traders, small farmers, loggers, and miners, etc. They have been able to live off the land without widespread destruction and deforestation. Plant and animal species have been preserved by these people.

                The Himalayan Yew, a slow-growing conifer, is currently on the World Wildlife Fund's list of the ten most endangered animals. This plant can be found throughout Bhutan, Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Burma, and maybe China. Taxol, which is promising to be a drug which can help cure cancer, is present in both the Pacific and Himalayan varieties. Found in the world's highest mountain range, the Himalayan Yew is extremely rare because of heavy deforestation and harvesting for Taxol extraction, without replanting.