A Case Study of Alpines in the Australian Alps

Pages: 9 (2766 words) Published: March 4, 2013
Spatial Patterns and Dimensions
* Location: Kosciuszko National Park covers 6,900 square kilometres and contains mainland Australia's highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko. The park is located in the south-eastern corner of New South Wales, 354 km, southwest of Sydney, and is contiguous with the Alpine National Park in Victoria to the south, and the Namadgi National Park in the Australian Capital Territory to the north east * Altitude: Treelines can occur over a great range of altitudes. * Size/shape continuity: the sub-alpine (snow covered in winter) and alpine areas but the truly alpine area, above the treeline, Biophysical Interactions

The upland area of the Australian Alps is underlain by marine sediments. Then through denudation the area was worn down and dissected by different forms of weathering and erosion. Once the land was uplifted and exposed to the effects of weathering, the varying degrees of resistance to erosion offered by different rock types became important. Softer sedimentary rocks eroded far more quickly, leaving the more resistant rocks in the highest areas. Rivers and streams cut down through soft, sedimentary rocks to form deep, wide valleys and narrow gorges with spectacular waterfalls. The Australian Alps are ‘mountains with soil’ as distinct from many alpine ranges overseas which are ‘rock mountains’. Mountains on other continents are generally younger and steeper, and have been more heavily glaciated, all factors that contribute to the absence of soil.  In the Australian Alps, low temperatures slow down chemical weathering of the various types of bedrock, thus slowing the formation of soil. At the higher elevations ice crystals form inside rock cracks (nivation), speeding up the mechanical shattering of rocks as the ice expands and opens up the cracks even more. Dynamics of Weather and Climate

The climate of the Kosciuszko Alpine Area low temperature with an average mid-summer temperature often less than 10º Celsius and the average midwinter temperature is far below 0º Celsius, with high Precipitation in the Succession: Due to the cold conditions, high soil acidity and low nutrient levels, succession in the alpine ecosystems are generally slow. Even after human disturbances around the alpine ecosystem researches witness these first introduced species which can tolerate complete aridity, are often the first groups of species to establish on exposed soils and at eroded sites in extreme environments. The next intrduced species are the low lying cushion plants, small herbs and developing humus soils. Heath communities develop and that is the extent of the succession. The low temperatures hinder the development of trees and reduce the numbers of herbivores and carnivores. Invasion: The extreme climate of the Alpine area has slowed the rate of invading species in the area but human interference has led to some secondary succession. Of the plants, the most common plant to invade disturbed sites has been the Sorrel Herb In terms of animals, foxes, wild horses, wild cats, and rats have invaded and placed stresses on many threatened species in the area. Resilience: The elasticity of alpine ecosystems is usually very slow. Recovery periods are slowed by the low temperatures and in the Kosciuszko Alpine Area it is estimated that plants only have four months of the year to grow. Furthermore, many of the plant and communities are very vulnerable due to the distinct location as they have adapted to this unique environment in Australia. Adjustments in Response to Natural Stress

In intertidal wetlands the majority of natural stress comes from salinity + tidal movements. The intertidal wetlands must be able to survive extreme conditions of mainly salt water at high tide, fresh water at low tide and times of flood. The salinity level in the water determines the survival of the plant. The grey mangrove can survive by excluding salt in the root system, salt excretion glands in the leaf, + waxy leaves...
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