Mountain ecosystems are found throughout the world, from the equator almost to the poles, occupying approximately one-fifth of its land surface. Beyond their common characteristics of having high relative relief (or very marked topographic variation) and steep slopes, mountains are remarkably diverse (Ives. Messerli and Spiess, 1997). They are found on every continent, and at every altitude, from close to sea level to the highest place on the earth – the summit of Mount Everest (Sagarmatha or Qomolangma) on the border between Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. 
And mountains make up a large portion of our life. Even when we don’t proactively go looking for them or think about them they are there.
But that is far from all of the impact they have on our lives.
Centers of Biodiversity
Mountain ranges are a center for biodiversity that starts on the planes and gradually changes as mountain ascend toward the clouds. The plant and wild life evolves up the slopes creating a distinct variety of life.
As the mountain rises, the climate decreases, this decrease in temperature is caused by a reduction in the greenhouse effect.
The characteristics of plant and animal vary strongly based on the mountains elevation. This is due to the change in climate, or the change in living conditions these plants and animals are faced with. When this happens a mutual dependency is created which traverses mountain ranges causing measurable bands for similar altitudes.
One of these bands that is typical is the montane forest. These life zones provide a temperate climate on the moderate elevation along with rainfall allow forests to grow and flurish. This gives way to animal life.
Holdridge set the definition for climate of a montane forest between 43 and 54 °F, or 6 and 12 °C. Beyond this range, higher up on the mountain, the trees begin to thin out and become less dense until they are no longer able to survive.
This zone, which exists beyond the tree line ecosystem is called the alpine zone, or alpine tundra. Grass and low growing bush and shrubs populate the face of the mountain, reducing erosion and provide a smaller ecosystem for animal life.
There are many different plants in this zone: mosses and lichens, as well as, perennial grasses, fords, sedges, and other small plants will be found on this line. These plants must adapt to the treacherous life on the mountain. Low temperatures, arid dry seasons, radiation from ultraviolet light, and a reduced growing season all make life in the alpine environment less than friendly.
Still, evolution has played a hand in making these plants adapt and change. Some of the characteristics found in the alpine environment are, rosette grow patterns, thick waxy exteriors and isolated leaves through a hair like structure.
Below 35°F, or 1.5 °C, is where these ecosystems become more barren, consisting mainly of rock formations and ice.
- The world’s largest mountain ecosystem lies in The Himalayas.
- “An estimated one-tenth of the human population derive their life-support directly from mountains.”
- “The greatest diversity of vascular plant species occurs in mountains: Costa Rica, the tropical eastern Andes, the Atlantic forest of Brazil, the eastern Himalaya-Yunnan region, northern Borneo and Papua New Guinea (Barthlott, Lauer and Placke, 1996)”
-  Martin F. Price leads the Mountain Regions Programme at the Environmental Change Unit, University of Oxford, UK.
Are a part of your life whether you realize it or not. It doesn’t matter if you live on a mountain, under one or a long way away from one they impact your life. Fifty-percent of the world’s population is dependent on mountain water. Roughly ten-percent of the world’s population derives their existence directly from a mountain. They provide a source of energy for plain’s dwellers and they provide an ecosystems which is a globally important center for biological diversity.
If you didn’t realize the importance of mountains before you soon will.
The Mountain Institute (TMI)
Visit their Flickr page for more images of their work.
The Mountain Institute (TMI) is an international non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the world’s mountains by conserving mountain ecosystems and empowering the people in mountain communities. The Mountain Institute is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and operates regional field offices in the Andes, Appalachians, and Himalayas. Respectively, these are the longest, the oldest, and the tallest mountain ranges in the world.Learn more on http://www.mountain.org/
Learn What They Do
To find out more about The Mountain Institute regional programs in the Andes, Appalachians, and Himalaya watch their video.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AOJw36wdd8
Mountain Wilderness was founded in 1987 in Biella, Italy during an international conference convened by Ludovico Sella, scion of a prominent piedmontese family of financiers, statesmen and mountaineers, among which Quintino Sella, the 19th century founder of the Italian Alpine Club.
Mountain Wilderness is an international non-governmental organization dedicated to the preservation of mountain areas, in their natural and cultural aspects. The organization was founded in Europe and has a stronger presence in alpine and pyrenean regions. It has, however, a worldwide reach, with representatives and actions on all continents.Learn more on http://www.mountainwilderness.org/
700 sounds like a lot, and it is when you realize this is the number of mountains a 2008 proposal suggested strip mining to access the seams of coal buried inside.
Burning the Future: Coal in Americahttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQPYKD4WGew
This practice involves removing the top of a mountain, as much as 500 feet, to access the seams of coal. The unwanted portion of the mountain, the waste, is discarded into the neighboring valleys. Mountaintop removal is an evolution of strip mining techniques that began in Appalachia in the 1970s.
Mountaintop removal/valley fill is a mining practice where the tops of mountains are removed, exposing the seams of coal. Mountaintop removal can involve removing 500 feet or more of the summit to get at buried seams of coal. The earth from the mountaintop is then dumped in the neighboring valleys.
Source US Environmental Protection Agency
- In April 2005, a group of Kentucky writers traveled together to see the devastation from mountaintop removal mining, and Wind Publishing produced the resulting collection of poems, essays and photographs, co-edited by Kristin Johannesen, Bobbie Ann Mason, and Mary Ann Taylor-Hall in Missing Mountains: We went to the mountaintop, but it wasn’t there.
- Dr. Shirley Stewart Burns, a West Virginia coalfield native, wrote the first academic work on mountaintop removal, titled Bringing Down The Mountains (2007), which is loosely based on her internationally award-winning 2005 Ph.D. dissertation of the same name.
- Dr. Burns was also a co-editor, with Kentucky author Silas House and filmmaker Mari-Lynn Evans, of Coal Country (2009), a companion book for the nationally recognized feature-length film of the same name.
- House, Silas & Howard, Jason (2009). Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-2546-6.
- Howard, Jason (Editor) (2009). We All Live Downstream: Writings about Mountaintop Removal. Louisville, KY: Motes Books. ISBN 978-1-934894-07-1.
- Dr. Rebecca Scott, another native West Virginian, examined the sociological relationship of identity and natural resource extraction in central Appalachia in her book, Removing Mountains (2010).
- Hedges, Chris & Sacco, Joe (2012). Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. Nation Books. ISBN 1568586434.
- Cultural historian Jeff Biggers published The United States of Appalachia, which examined the cultural and human costs of mountaintop removal.
Additionally, you may find interest in the stories of coalfield residents, in which case these books would be appropriate:
- Lost Mountain (2007) by Erik Reese
- Moving Mountains: How One Woman and Her Community Won Justice From Big Coal (2007) by Penny Loeb
Please note that I linked to Amazon as a source for these books, however, 700mountains.org does not receive revenue if you choose to purchase these books. It was merely for convenience on my part.
Not a local problem
In 2012 Chinese developers made plans to level some 700 mountains.
Stuart Clark reported in June 2104 about experts warning on the impact of China’s continued plans to level 700 mountains (Big Wave Gully, Lanzhou, China) in the Gansu province to make way for Lanzhou city. And while he was
Work had to be halted, however, due to air pollution caused by the dust.
Mountain Conservation Resources
If you would like to take part in environmental conservation I have put together a list of environmental agencies. This list contains both local and international.