Altitudinal vegetation zone
Campbell, John S. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
Last reviewed:October 2021
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- Environmental gradients in mountains
- Temperate, tropical, and high latitudes
- High latitude
- Related Primary Literature
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An intergrading region on a mountain slope characterized by specific plant life forms or species composition, and determined by complex environmental gradients. Along an altitudinal transect of a mountain, there are sequential changes in the physiognomy (growth form) of the plants and in the species composition of the communities (Fig. 1). This sequential zonation of mountain vegetation has been recognized for centuries. Vertical zonation was fully developed as an ecological concept by the work of Clinton Hart Merriam with the U.S. Biological Survey of 1889. He described a series of life zones—land areas having uniform climate, soil, and plant and animal communities—on the slopes of the San Francisco Peaks in northern Arizona, based on characteristic species of the flora and fauna. Other patterns of plant physiognomic and community zonation have now been cataloged in mountain ranges throughout the world. See also: Ecology; Life zones; Mountain; Terrestrial ecosystem
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