Alpine Belt

Alpine Belt

 

a high natural belt in mountainous territory, with predominantly mountain-meadow topography. It lies above the subalpine belt and at higher elevations is replaced by the nival belt. The elevation of the alpine belt varies depending on the latitude, degree of humidity, and exposure of the slopes. In the Alps and Northern Caucasus, for example, the belt lies at an elevation of 2,200 to 3,000 m; on the southern slopes of the Himalayas, from 3,600 to 5,000 m. The alpine belt is most prominent in well-watered mountains of the temperate and subtropical latitudes; in higher latitudes it is replaced by the mountain tundra belt, in lower latitudes by the mountain steppe and desert belts, and in equatorial latitudes by the paramo belt. Widespread distribution of mountain glacier relief forms is characteristic of the alpine belt. The climate is cold, with prolonged (six to ten months), thick snow cover, a short vegetation period, and strong winds. Average temperatures are as low as - 15°C in January and below 14°C in July. Precipitation is 1,000 mm or more per year; avalanches are common. Alpine vegetation predominates, forming mainly communities of low-grass alpine meadows and thickets of cushion-like plant formations. The fauna consists mainly of species adapted to rapid migration to lower belts (mountain sheep, antelopes, goats, and other hoofed animals) or hibernators (marmots, tree-creepers, field mice, and other rodents). The economic significance of the alpine belt lies mostly in its use as summer pasture land.

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