Rising hundreds of metres above the areas that surround them, mountains can loom over cities and countryside like ever-watchful guardians. With a quarter of the Earth’s surface covered by mountainous terrain, these habitats are an essential part of our planet’s ecosystem - providing water to more than half of all people alive today.
High in mountain ranges from the Rockies to the Himalayas, life abounds. From mountain goats and sheep to multiple species of bear and a wide variety of birds, these habitats might be tough, but the animals that live here have adapted to ensure their continued survival.
The sweeping valleys and high peaks of mountain ranges across the world serve as a stunning visual reminder of how these dramatic environments came into being: often formed over millennia from the clashing of tectonic plates, mountains provide habitats that are completely unique when compared to the landscapes that surround them.
- Steep inclines
- Small summit areas
- High altitude
- Sharp ridges
- Lower oxygen levels
- Cool air temperature
- Intense microclimates
- Rivers and streams
Climate change can cause snow to melt, leading to increased instances of avalanches, glacial melting, and changes to rivers and streams. These changes can present clear danger to people and animals living on or near the mountains, as well as disrupting the ecosystem of the mountain itself.
Illegal hunting and unsustainable clearing of land can lead to the destruction of natural habitats in the mountains, pushing animals further towards extinction. Over-tourism can also erode natural habitats, and increase pollution in the area’s soil and water.
Whether it’s winter or summer, mountains across the world offer up opportunities for adventure in abundance. From paragliding, hiking, white-water rafting, biking and paddle-boarding in mountain lakes in summer to skiing, snowboarding, ice-climbing and dog-sledding in the winter, adrenalin junkies can guarantee multiple activities to get their pulses racing. You could even start your day by hot air ballooning through the mountains - bringing to life a view that you’re unlikely to ever forget.
Lodges and cabins are available in many mountain ranges, but camping offers the chance to get even closer to nature. The sense of calm that comes with being at a high altitude, maybe without internet access or phone signal, can really remind us what’s important: reconnection with nature, and the chance to experience a morning sunrise without any distractions.
You only have to look at a picture of Mount Fuji, often framed in cherry blossom or ringed with early morning mist, to get a sense of how naturally beautiful a mountain can be. From the Dolomites in Italy to the Valley of Flowers National Park in the Indian Himalayas, UNESCO has noted numerous mountainous areas for their natural beauty.
Numerous different types of animal have made mountainous regions their home. The animals you’ll find at these altitudes vary depending on where you are in the world. In the Rocky Mountains you’ll find moose, elk, deer, black and grizzly bears, cougars, lynx and bobcats. In the Himalayas you might spot clouded leopards, antelopes and monkeys. In South America, the Andes are home to alpacas, llamas, tapir, and the majestic Andrean condor.
In countries in the northern hemisphere the trees most often found in mountains are coniferous, built to withstand cold temperatures and harsh conditions. Coniferous forests found along mountain ranges are home to fir, spruce and pine trees. Aspens, willows and shrub plants are also likely to be found here. In mountains in Australia and New Zealand broad-leaf trees are more likely, whilst in Japan area of health and grassland can be found at higher altitude than the trees.
Mountains can be found across the world, from Chile to Japan. Some of the planet’s most famous mountain ranges include the Andes (which covers a large swathe of South America), the Himalayas (home to Everest and spreading through India, Nepal, China and Bhutan), the Rockies (Canada and the United States.) Household names including Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya are found on the African continent, in Tanzania and Kenya respectively. Bhutan and Nepal are the most mountainous countries in the world.