The mountainous areas at and above the treeline which are commonly referred to as the ‘alpine zone’, include most of the highest peaks of the Alps and other high mountain regions of the world. They contain a wide diversity of habitats ranging from open forest, pasture and heathland to fragmented rock and fell-field vegetation, rivers, lakes and glaciers.

Understanding the abiotic and biotic components of this single, largest 'biome' of Switzerland and other countries is of great importance, because conditions for successful human habitation in mountainous regions are intimately dependent on the functioning and integrity of alpine ecosystems.
The economic value of the alpine zone was originally based on traditional farming activities and the supply of water and hydroelectric energy. Today, tourism, transport routes across the Alps and other mountain ranges, exploitation of the biological diversity and preserving heritages of culture and nature have become major socio-economic and political issues. The maintenance of these resources depends to a significant extent on ecological services provided by natural ecosystems.

Given that 40% of mankind depends, in one way or another, on such upland ecosystem services, a sound understanding of ALPINE ECOLOGY is both, of national as well as international interest.