Alpine habitats (or mountains) are where many birds, invertebrates, and lizards live. The high altitudes (heights) of the mountains have created conditions where several different plants and animals have adapted to living, including the rock wren, the only alpine parrot in the world (kea), as well as the only alpine gecko and alpine cicada. The mountains are where you can also find heaps of other invertebrates, as well as wild goats, deer, and pigs.
Incredibly, both alpine animals and plants have developed amazing traits and characteristics that allow them to survive in the harsh alpine environments. Plants tend not to grow tall so that they can protect themselves from the intense winds, and some animals have developed dark colourings so that they can preserve their heat in the cold conditions.
Alpine areas can be exciting places for people to visit, like NZ’s tallest mountain – the amazing 3,724 metre Mt Cook (Aoraki), but it’s important to remember that this is where lots of animals live all year round, so we need to be sure to not disturb them. Moreover, alpine habitats make up approximately 11% of New Zealand – we need to do what we can to ensure that these unique animal homes are protected.
Have a look below at the amazing taonga that make alpine habitats their home, what challenges they face, and how you can help!
Different fauna, or animals, can be found all over New Zealand, including within our country’s harsh alpine environments. These amazing animals have adapted to cope with the extremely cold, windy and dry conditions and rugged mountains of the alpine environment. Below are some examples of some of the fascinating animals you can find living in alpine habitats:
Native species such as:
Introduced species such as:
Different flora has adapted to growing in the varying altitudes of the alpine regions of New Zealand. It’s even more impressive that 93% of the hundreds of plant species are endemic – meaning they grow nowhere else in the world! The mountains also have lots of resilient plants, including some flowering plants. Something that makes these flowers particularly interesting is that they are mostly white (occasionally yellow), as they have evolved to attract pollinating insects that are not drawn to bright colours. How amazing is that?
Take a look at the list below for some examples of the flora that you would find in the mountain ranges:
Unfortunately, just other natural habitats around the world, the alpine regions in New Zealand face several challenges. For example:
Climate change is a huge factor when it comes to the conservation of alpine habitats. Due to the fact that the earth is becoming warmer, these mountain regions are shrinking and both native and non-native plants and animals are moving to higher parts of the mountains. As a result, it is affecting the balance of the environment.
Grazing by farmed animals, feeding kea, and people’s recreational activities have also played a factor in the disturbance of the alpine flora and fauna. Activities such as skiing, tramping, and off-road vehicles such as quad bikes and dirt bikes have negatively impacted these habitats. Human activities are also a contributing factor to the spread of plant seeds that usually wouldn’t grow in these areas moving up the mountains.
Many of these alpine flora and fauna cannot survive anywhere else – as such, we have a responsibility to protect their homes so they can continue to live there for years to come.
Check out how you can help below:
Help prevent climate change
Climate change is a change in the earth’s normal climate, which happens over the long-term. These include changes in global and regional temperature, rainfall, and wind, rising sea levels, and habitat shifts, to name a few.
There have been significant changes in the last 20 years to the earth’s climate. It’s important to do what you can to help fight climate change. Here are some ways you can help:
Write a polite letter or email
You can write a polite email or letter to the government urging further protection of these habitats.
Spread the word
Let friends, family, and classmates know about what they can do to help fight climate change
Respect alpine habitats
If you or your family are going skiing, tramping, etc., ensure you clean your shoes and equipment so you don’t introduce the seeds of exotic plants or plant diseases, stay on the tracks and respect the wildlife by giving them their space – remember that you’re in their home. Keep quad bikes, dirt bikes and other off-road vehicles away from these precious habitats.
If you or your family are going hiking and plan on taking your dog, make sure they are allowed in the area you plan to go and only take your dog to areas that allow them, and keep them under control. If you come across wildlife put your dog on a lead and lead them away.
Notify DOC if you see wildlife being harassed by people or dogs.
Do not feed kea
Instead, if you would like to help them, you can design and create your very own roadside bird gym with ladders, swings, and climbing frames as a form of enrichment for kea. You can read all how NZTA did this in the Homer Tunnel in issue 1 of Kind Matters.
Just like companion animals, wildlife can get sick or injured. These animals need our help just like any other animal. To protect precious wildlife, it’s important to know what to do if you come across animal needing help.
If you see a wild animal that is not sick, injured, or in danger. It is best to give them space and let them go about their day.
If you find a wild animal who is sick or injured, remember to put everyone’s safety first and with the help of an adult, call the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).
DOC can help you locate a local wildlife rescue and/or come help the animal. It’s important to be as precise as possible about the animal’s location so they can be found quickly.