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Mountain ecosystem: characteristics, flora and fauna

Mountain ecosystems provide basic environmental services such as energy, biodiversity, water and soil, but they are also fundamental not only for the development of the populations that inhabit them, but also for those populations and ecosystems that are found at lower altitudes.

If you want more information about the mountainous ecosystem: characteristics, flora and fauna , be sure to read this interesting Green Ecology article .

What is the mountain ecosystem

The mountainous ecosystem, like all ecosystems, is formed by a set of abiotic factors such as soil, water or climate and by biotic factors , these being the living organisms that inhabit it. However, we refer to this type in particular as a mountainous ecosystem because both factors develop in a mountainous relief where the determining factor is the altitude that will trigger the changes , especially the temperature.

If you are not clear about how an ecosystem works , we recommend you visit this other article before reading further.

Mountain ecosystem: characteristics

Temperature is a very changing factor in these ecosystems, since it is different depending on the altitude. So what is the climate like in the mountainous ecosystem ? As the altitude increases, the temperature decreases, although not in all areas it decreases at the same altitude. In a temperate zone, for example, for every 155m of altitude the temperature will decrease 1ºC, while in a tropical zone, for the temperature to decrease 1ºC, 180 meters of altitude are needed (due to greater solar radiation). This variation in temperature with altitude is called the vertical thermal gradient , also affected by the thickness of the atmosphere (cold and temperate zones are less thick and the tropics are thicker).

The decrease in temperature means that as the height increases, the trees cannot develop the same, which is why the forests are in the lower and middle areas of the mountains and in the high areas are the herbaceous and shrubs. This involves a great variety, as you can see in more detail in this article on Ecosystem diversity: what it is and examples .

Another characteristic to highlight is that the mountainous ecosystems are an obstacle for the warm and superficial air currents that are loaded with humidity, since when climbing the mountain they end up cooling. As a consequence, the humidity condenses and clouds form that end up generating precipitation.

It is also worth mentioning that mountain ecosystems receive more solar radiation, which has a negative effect on the tissues of living beings. That is why both plant and animal species need certain strategies to support it. For example, the hardness and size of the leaves of some plant species found in the highest areas of the mountain are an adaptation strategy .

In these ecosystems, gravity favors the runoff of water from rain, something essential for the living beings that inhabit said ecosystem. It is also worth noting the role that the orientation of the slope plays, since as there are two slopes with different orientations in a mountain, they receive the sun’s radiation at different times of the day, thus influencing the variety of the existing flora.

Mountain ecosystem: flora

Now that you know the characteristics of this ecosystem, we will take a closer look at the flora and fauna of these spaces.

As we have mentioned previously, the vegetation of the mountainous ecosystem changes with increasing altitude, since the higher it is, the lower the temperature and the greater the solar radiation. In the lowest areas of the mountain ecosystem we find forests of different types. For example, in temperate mountainous ecosystems there are coniferous forest , with species such as pine ( Pinus spp.) And larch ( Larix decidua), and deciduous forest , with angiosperm species such as beech ( Fagus sylvatica ), birch ( Betula spp .) And oak ( Quercus robur ). In the highest areas of these ecosystems we findthe alpine tundra , with species such as grasses, rosaceae, lichens and mosses.

If we talk about tropical mountainous ecosystems, it should be noted that in the middle areas there is an abundance of humid and cloudy forests with tall trees such as the spoonbill ( Gyranthera caribensis ) or the saithe ( Albizia carbonaria ), while in the páramo (areas of greater altitude) cold grasslands predominate.

Mountain ecosystem: fauna

Finally, we can talk about the fauna that usually inhabit these ecosystems. Some of the mammalian species that inhabit temperate and cold mountain ecosystems are the black bear ( Ursus americanus ), the wolf (Canis lupus), the fox ( Vulpes vulpes ) and the brown bear ( Ursus arctos ). There are also birds such as the bearded vulture ( Gypaetus barbatus ) and the grouse ( Tetrao urogallus ).

On the other hand, among the species that inhabit tropical mountainous ecosystems there is a great variety of insects, reptiles, small mammals and birds . It should also be noted the presence of some felines such as the jaguar ( Panthera onca ), the tiger ( Panthera tigris ) and the leopard ( Pathera pardus ).

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