Alpine Habitat Conservation and Restoration in Tropical and Sub-Tropical High Mountains

Authored by: Alton C. Byers

Routledge Handbook of Ecological and Environmental Restoration

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138922129
eBook ISBN: 9781315685977
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315685977.ch14

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Abstract

Alpine ecosystems, the ‘land above treeline’, cover three per cent of the Earth’s land surface and contain over 10,000 species of plants (Körner 1999), which ranks them among the most biodiverse per unit area of any ecosystem in the world. In sub-tropical and tropical high mountains of the world, they are of critical importance as sources of highly valuable medicinal and aromatic plants (Olsen and Larsen 2003; Buntaine et al. 2007; Byers et al. 2014); of freshwater supplies for millions of people living downstream (Bandyopadhay et al. 1997); for livestock grazing (Stevens 1993; Nagy and Grabherr 2009); extractive industries such as mining (Fox 1997); and as adventure tourism destination sites (Price and Kohler 2013). They are also among the most fragile ecosystems on Earth, with thin soils, cold environments, and slow-growing vegetation that is highly susceptible to disturbances as a result of turf mining, overgrazing, and the harvesting of shrubby vegetation for fuel (Byers 2005; Nagy and Grabherr 2009). In all cases, once the ‘geomorphic glue’ of alpine shrubs and protective alpine turf is removed from the thin alpine soils, rapid accelerations of mass wasting and soil loss can occur that can take decades, if not centuries, to heal (Körner 1999; Byers 2005, 2013).

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