Alpine fauna: food ecology


Human impact


Alpine grassland has been colonised by humans for a long time. High productivity, less restricted locomotion than in lower forests and the advantage of malaria free habitats in tropical regions lead to the early use of alpine grassland for stock farming.

ethiopian_people a  livestock_ethiopia b

1a and b - The malaria free regions in the tropical mountains are desirable sites for agriculture. (147K and 118K)

The agricultural influence affects different aspects:

human impact1

2 - Monk's rhubarb (Rumex alpinus), a plant benefitted by agriculture. Photo: P. Vonow (122K)

Agricultural use first shifts the natural proportions of food sources and plant occurrence. Pasturage is increased at the expense of the forest and timberline ecotone. Grazing of cattle, fertilisation and mowing result in a peculiar plant community not equivalent to the original one.

On one hand, cattle are a food competitor for other herbivores, but on the other hand the intensification of grassland (cutting, fertilization) also brings new food resources for other herbivores. If agriculture were abandoned in the mountains, a peculiar ecosystem would disappear and biodiversity would decrease.

human impact3 a human impact2 b

3a and b - Cattle are a food competitor for herbivores even at the highest altitudes. Photo above: L. Hug; bottom: P. Vonow (134K and 101K)


Also the population growth in the lowland and the extension of urban area largely affects alpine fauna. Species, especially ones with large ranges like wolfs or habitats - the mountains.



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29 August 2011
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