A biome, or a life zone, comprises all plants, animals and other organisms as well as a physical environment in a particular area. A biome is characterized by its plant life, which types depend mostly on a location's climatic conditions, latitude and altitude. The Alpine biome is one of the coldest biomes in the world, found in mountainous regions across the globe, typically at the altitudes above 10,000 feet. Mountain ranges that are parts of the Alpine biome include the Rockies, Sierra and Cascade Mountains in North America, the Andes in South America, the Himalayas in Asia and the Alps and Pyrenees in Europe.
Alpine biomes are typically harsh environments with an extreme weather and climate. Standard temperatures in summer rise and fall from 40 to 60° F. In winter, the degrees are often below the freezing point, and the climate gets colder as the altitude increases. A typical weather in the Alpine biome is very dynamic and frequently changes from warm to freezing in one day. The winter season lasts from around October to May, while the summer season from June to September.
The flora and fauna of the Alpine biome have to acclimatize to stand against tough weather conditions. Such places are windy, often frosty and the sunlight at these high altitudes is very strong. A variety of Alpine plant species counts only about two hundred. It is explained by the lack of CO2 at high altitudes, which plants use to carry on photosynthesis. Due to the cold and wind climate, the Alpine flora is represented mostly by small perennial groundcover plants that grow and reproduce slowly. The vegetation protects itself from rough weather conditions by hugging the ground. Taller plants or trees would soon get blown over and freeze.
Another factor, which results in reasonably sparse vegetation, is a poor soil conditions, as the soils are not continually enriched by decomposing plants. Some species of Alpine plants had to develop adaptation techniques to be able to survive the drought. The water runs off mountaintops quickly, the soil may have a little ability to hold the water, and the air may be dry with a constant wind. Succulent mountaintop plants endure a constant lack of the water, since they accumulate it in the thick leaves. Tussock grasses, small-leafed shrubs and dwarf trees are considered to be among succulents. One more example of such amazing type of plants is bristlecone pine, which lives in scattered, arid mountain regions of six western states of America, ranging from Colorado to California.
Actually, the Alpine fauna has to deal with the same two types of problems that the flora deals with: cold and too much high UV wavelengths. The reason for that is a shortage of the atmosphere, responsible to filter UV rays from the sun. Only warm blooded animals together with insects inhabit the Alpine biome. Animals acclimatize to the cold by hibernating, migrating to lower, warmer areas, or insulating their bodies with layers of fat. Nonetheless, some of them obtained shorter legs, tails and ears in a process of natural selection in order to reduce a heat loss. What is more, they have larger lungs, more blood cells and hemoglobin as a result of the increase of pressure and the lack of oxygen. Good examples of Alpine biome animals are mountain goats, sheep, elk, beetles, grasshoppers and butterflies.