Biological Environments: Mountains

Mountain Structure

Collisions of the earths crust create mountains and areas that are above 600 metres above the ground are defined as Mountains. Sedimentary rock forms the earths crust and is an everlasting cycle which involves eroded rocks falling from mountains and building up layers in rivers to being squeezed together. There are different procedures that occur to form different types of mountains.

There are five basic types of mountains;

Fold mountains

The earth is divided into fourteen tectonic plates which collide causing either upward folds known as anticlines or downward folds which are known as synclines.

The Himalayan, Rockies Andes and Alps are examples of folded mountains.

Fault Block mountains

These are formed when faults and cracks in the earth's crust force some materials of rocks up, which form mountains and are also known as horsts, and others down which are termed graben. Instead of the earth folding over the earth's crust pulls apart, because of this a chunk of Earth is pushed out. There are two types of fault block mountains, either lifted so both sides are steep or tilted where one side is steep and the other a gentle slope.

Volcanic Mountains

These are formed by volcanoes. Volcanoes that erupt let out lava, once this cools it turns to hardened rock similar to the molten in dome mountains. The lava piles on the surface, cools and turns to hardened rock forming mountains.

Dome mountains

These mountains are formed when molten rock pushes it way to from the earth crust but doesn't erupt like volcanoes. The molten rock cools to form hardened rock. The layers over the molten rock are warped forming the dome shape.

Plateau Mountains.

These are also known as erosion mountains. They are not formed by any internal activity but are formed by erosion as the name suggests. These types of mountains are found near mountains. Weathering of rocks is one of the reason why erosion occurs this is a continual and gradual process. Harder rocks are steadily eroded creating mountain slopes.

The different types of mountains distinguish the physical characteristics and how they are formed. The difference in their constituent rocks give rise to a wide range of soils and consequently produce different habitats.

The distribution of biological communities depends on geological, topographic and altitudinal climates and temperatures on mountains, factors which are generally the same. Location variances with mountains spreading over all continents mean each area have unique biological communities. As Ricklefs (Year) mentions, the more complicated an environments physical structure is the more complex communities will be present. As well as this, there is the widest range of mammals present here due to the varying habitats (Krebbs. 2001).

Vegetation at higher altitudes encounters freezing temperatures, lack of oxygen and excessive ultra violet radiation, with conditions improving as you descend a mountain. Mountain peaks are usually rock, ice or snow and are not liveable conditions. The point at which trees start growing due to improved temperatures is known as timberline. Alpine shrub land grow above the timberline and are situated in Africa, Himalayas and New Zealand being an example of the plants available in this region (Chapman & Reiss, 1999). The terrible climate has made plants, shrubs and trees adapt to this environment. An example of this is having short and narrow leaves known as needle-leaves which reduce surface area to avoid the plant burning.

The terrible rainfalls in these regions is of benefit as it not only supplies eighty percent of the worlds fresh water but improves the agricultural conditions for humans on the foothills of the mountains. This is of huge advantage considering they house a tenth of the world's human population.

There is an enormous range of animals within mountainous regions. The different species of animals are found at different altitudes as they adapt to these areas. At the top of the mountains this is the highest altitude and this is where there is no vegetation present so it would be less likely to find herbivore animals up here which would mean that many animals would not be living here as there is nothing to feed on (as there is no herbivores here there would be no carnivores) so there is less chance of life here. As mentioned earlier the unique climates of these places make them ideal for rare species to thrive. Each continent, due to their specific surroundings and climate, house different kind of rare and unique species. Animal communities struggle to survive at high altitudes due to the low temperatures and therefore tend to rest or migrate to lower ground. Examples of these are the ptarmigan and blue hare which are adapted to dig beneath the snow for their food and also the Marmot, which are in the Alps, huddle together as a unit hibernating for half a year (Chapman & Reiss, 1999). Animals are not distributed as equally as one logic would think. As Krebbs (2001) writes about Fretwells' Ideal Free Distribution, which works on the concept that once the most ideal habitats become overcrowded the suitability of the next best habitat is equal to that of the first.

As you move down the snow becomes less and there is more vegetation here this is where you would find more living species, and it is where the food chain starts to assemble. The food chain consists of three main parts these are:

1. The sun

- which provides the energy for all living species on the planet.

2. The producers

– These include all vegetation, the producers use the energy from the suns light to produce food. The producers make up the majority of the food chain.

3. The consumers

– These are the organism which relies on other animals to survive. Consumers include herbivores and carnivores.

The food chain can be split up into sections which are primary, secondary, and tertiary consumers. Consumers are regarded as any animal which does not produce its own food. All animals are categorised in these bonds depending on where it is found on the food chain. Herbivores are primary consumers and carnivores are split up into different bands for example first level carnivores are secondary consumers, second level carnivores are tertiary consumers and third level carnivores are quaternary consumers. It is very rare for a food chain to have more than five levels.

The food chain can be affected in a variety of ways one could be hunting this can be catastrophic as species are hunted and population level fall this could lead to extinction. if this does happen the food chain can collapse as species depend on each other to survive for example looking at the chain below if the red panda was hunted and became extinct there would be no food left for the snow leopard which would either die or go somewhere else in search of food. Another problem with this is that snow leopards and red pandas live on high grounds so if the leopard had to go somewhere else (to lower ground) this could affect not just other animals but us humans as well as these animals can be very dangerous.

Grass Red Panda Snow leopard

There are wide ranges of mountains in the world and there are many different types of mountains which are; fold mountains, fault-block mountains, dome mountains, volcanic mountains and plateau mountains. All these mountains they are located at different places in different range continents and countries. Most of these mountains they are located on the landforms, under the seas and oceans on the Earth's crust.

Mount Everest is a type of fold mountains and it is also the highest mountain on the earth and the highest point on the earth's continental crust. It is 8848m in its height above the sea level. Besides that it has several names on which it is called; the Qomolangma peak name given by the Tibetan people, Mount Sagarmatha name given by Nepalians, Zhumulangma Peak name given by the Chinese people. It is part of the Himalaya Range Mountains in Asia, it is located on the border between Northern China, Southern India, Eastern Nepal and Western Nepal.

Alps Mountains are another type of fold mountains they are located in southern-central Europe on the northern side of the Mediterranean Sea. They extend from the coastline of southern France into Switzerland, going through Austria and northern Italy, then through Bosnia, Herzegovina, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and then ends in Albania on the coastline of Adriatic Sea. They cover a total distance of 700 miles between these countries.

Sierra Nevada mountains and Harz Mountains are types of fault-block mountains they are located in different continents and different countries on the earth's crust because they are formed due to the cracks in the Earth's crust pushing up the rocks and other materials out onto the earth surface. Sierra Nevada mountains they are located in Northern America, while Harz mountains are located in Germany.

Volcanic mountains are usually located on a landform because the liquid rock comes through the surface of the planet. It erupts magna from a hole in the Earth's crust and the mantle, magna is made of rocks and gases which can be found on the earth's surface. Mount St. Helens, Mount Pinatubo, Mount Kea and Mount Loa are examples of volcanic mountains they are all located in different countries and different continents; Mount St. Helens is located in North America, Mount Pinatubo is located in Philippines country which is located in Southeast Asia, Mount Kea and Mount Loa they are located in Hawaii. There are some volcanic mountains found on oceans and seas like the Bowie Seamount it is located in the north eastern of the Pacific Ocean. It is about 3000 metres below the sea surface. Seamounts are formed

Please be aware that the free essay that you were just reading was not written by us. This essay, and all of the others available to view on the website, were provided to us by students in exchange for services that we offer. This relationship helps our students to get an even better deal while also contributing to the biggest free essay resource in the UK!