high-altitude vegetation in the zone above the mountain-forest belt and below the zone of alpine meadows. Subalpine vegetation occurs predominantly in mountains of the temperate and subtropical belts, for example, the Alps, Carpathians, Caucasus, western Tien-Shan, and Himalayas, where precipitation is high and more or less evenly distributed throughout the year.
Conditions favorable for subalpine vegetation include a heavy snow cover, which protects plants from winter cold, uniform and relatively high humidity of soil and air, caused by the melting of firn fields at higher elevations and by summer precipitation, and good surface drainage, facilitated by a gravelly substrate and steep terrain. Four groups of associations constitute subalpine vegetation: (1) plants of tall-grass subalpine meadows, (2) low-growing shrubs and undergrowth, including dwarf pine, dwarf stone pine, birches, and rhododendrons, (3) grassy heaths and heath meadows, consisting of low-growing grasses, and (4) thinned park-type forests—subalpine thin forests and elfin woodlands.
Subalpine vegetation varies greatly, depending on the geographic location of the mountain system, the exposure and gradient of the slopes, and the influence of man. The destruction of forests often artificially lowers the lower boundary of subalpine vegetation and changes its composition. Subalpine vegetation is valuable as summer pasture.
A. G. VORONOV