If you’ve ever gone hiking in the Rocky Mountains or Sierras in the western United States , you know that the higher you go, the colder conditions get. The air is thinner and it’s harder to breathe. In the summer, rain and thunderstorms are frequent. In the winter, freezing temperatures, blinding snow and avalanches are common.
But what about mountains in hot climates? Mount Kenya in Africa lies at the equator. It is very hot here, during the day, but freezing cold at night.
- Plants and trees must adapt to living on the mountain. A mountain can be divided into zones and only certain types of plants live in each zone. The higher you go, the tougher the plants must be. Above the tree line is the point at which trees can no longer grow. Here, you’ll find moss, lichens and maybe a few scrubby plants.
- Animals must also adapt to mountain living. Mammals usually have thick coats of fur. Grazing mammals, such as mountain goats and the European ibex, are able to nimbly climb on steep slopes.
- Many mountain animals, including alpine goats and sheep, have larger lungs that help them breathe in the thin mountain air.
- Avalanche: a sheet of falling snow
- Equator: an imaginary line that runs around the middle of the Earth
- Tree line: the point above which trees cannot grow
- Lichens: small, moss-like plants that cling to rock
- Nimble: quick, agile, graceful
Visit the University of California Santa Barbara to learn more about alpine life.
Question: Do people live in alpine areas?
Answer: For thousands of years, people have lived and survived in mountain climates. The Sherpas in the Himalayan Mountains of Asia have larger lungs to help them survive this harsh climate.
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