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a forest of stunted trees and bushes with turned-up branches and crooked trunks that trail over the mountain slopes. Elfin woodland develops as a result of strong winds and heavy snowfalls. The trees spend the winter bent under the weight of snow, and their branches straighten after spring thaw. Elfin woodland often forms an impassable thicket 3-4 m high. It occurs in the north, close to the forest boundary (forest tundra) and in the subalpine mountain zone. In the Alps and in the Balkans, the woodlands consist of mountain pine (European dwarf pine) and in Kamchatka of Siberian dwarf pine and alder. In the Caucasus the elfin woodlands are very diverse, containing beech, birch (Medvedev and Litvinov birches), and Pontic oak. The subalpine elfin woodlands play a major role in the regime of many rivers and are important in water conservation and soil protection.