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The alps

Alpine Ash sapling

What are alpine ecosystems?

The alps are characterised by granite and sandstone peaks with rounded mountain tops and plateaus.

The highest mountain areas support a rich mosaic of heathland, grassland and alpine bog communities.

At slightly lower altitudes these ‘treeless islands’ give way to subalpine woodlands comprising small, multi-stemmed, snow gums usually less than 10m tall.

Alpine facts

  • A mere 0.5 per cent of Australia is truly ‘treeless’ alpine.
  • Climatic conditions are harsh
  • Typically covered in snow for more than a third of the year
  • Plants and animals have evolved to cope with environmental extremes – low temperatures, high winds, snow cover for long periods and seasonal inundation
  • Many species are found only in the alpine area including several species at risk of extinction, such as the Baw Baw Frog, Alpine Water Skink, Mountain Pygmy-possum and Stirling Stonefly.

Threats

Alpine-adapted species are vulnerable to:

  • Climate change impacts such as changes in snow cover, streamflows and frequency of large scale wildfire
  • Weed invasion
  • Grazing by exotic animals and predation by foxes.

Where to find alpine ecosystems?

Find out more

Australian Alps National Parks – Comprehensive information about Austalia’s alpine national parks across Victoria, NSW and the ACT.

Deptartment of Environment and Primary Industries – Distribution map and information about the alpine and sub-alpine habitats found in Victoria.

Melbourne Museum – Alps in Victoria  – Information about some of the endangered species found in the Victorian alps.

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