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But even these bleak landscapes are home to a diverse array of plants and animals adapted for that environment. Until recently, mountain habitats have been largely protected because of their inaccessibility.

As people have moved into the mountains to live, for recreation and to obtain valuable resources such as timber, mountain ecosystems around the world have been subject to degradation and destruction. Mountains capture water from the atmosphere and store it as snow and ice that supplies streams and rivers throughout the year. Because mountain habitats can change quickly as elevations increase, they are often home to a greater diversity of plants and animals than nearby lowlands.

On some mountains, especially at medium elevations in warmer latitudes, many species are endemic, meaning that they are found nowhere else in the world. Trekkers walking on the Langtang trail in Nepal with snow capped mountains in the background.


Trekking plays a vital role in the local economy, but also has significant impact on the local environment. Glaciers—layers of ice and snow compressed over thousands to millions of years—are often found high in the mountains. Runoff from glaciers provides water to many people. But climate change is causing many of these glaciers to shrink, which could lead to floods and water shortages and contribute to sea level rise that will destroy coastal communities. People use mountain trees for firewood and other timber products. But unsustainable logging is a problem in many mountain forests.

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In addition, mountain forests are often lost to expanding agriculture or mining ventures that destroy precious habitat. Globally, one out of eight people live in mountains and many others visit them each year. But mountain habitats are often destroyed to make way for roads, hotels and other developments such as hydropower.

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Some of the world's semi-arid regions are turning into desert at an alarming rate. This process, known as desertification, is not caused by drought , but usually arises from deforestation and the demands of human populations that settle on the semi-arid lands. The pounding of the soil by the hooves of livestock in ranching, for example, may degrade the soil and encourage erosion by wind and water.

In northern China, growing urbanization, which left much of the land unprotected against wind erosion and the buildup of sediment from the surrounding desert, created a desertification problem, prompting the government to build a " great green wall " as a hedge against encroaching desert. In existing deserts, some species are in peril because of climate change. Global warming threatens to change the ecology of deserts : Higher temperatures may produce more wildfires that alter desert landscapes by eliminating slow-growing trees and shrubs and replacing them with fast-growing grasses.

Many desert plants can live for hundreds of years.

Mountain ecosystem

But in California, the iconic Joshua tree—the oldest found was 1, years old— may not survive a hotter climate , scientists warn. If they don't survive, that could affect species such as the yucca moth, which lays its eggs inside the Joshua tree flower. Desert bird species could also be in danger from climate change, as heat waves lead to lethal dehydration. Paradoxically, the effort to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions by expanding solar energy has also created some tensions for desert habitats. In the Mojave, the arrival of the Ivanpah solar thermal plant created concerns about how the facility would affect threatened desert tortoises , and conservationists are working to ensure solar energy projects like these can coexist with wildlife.

Other land use changes also threaten to degrade desert habitats. The downsizing of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument poses a threat to some of the bee species that live in the area, while the prospect of a border wall between the U. There are several types of rainforests in Australia. Tropical rainforests, mainly found in the northeast, are the richest in plant and animal species.

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Subtropical rainforests are found near the mid-eastern coast, and broadleaf rainforests grow in the southeast and on the island of Tasmania. You can check out our cool fascinating Fraser Island facts , here!

Did you know Australia is home to many of the deadliest species of animals on the planet? This slithery reptile releases enough venom in one bite to kill people. Aboriginal people arrived in Australia about 50, years ago.

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The hardy Aborigines have learned to live in the harsh conditions of the outback. Dutch explorers first landed in Australia in , and the British began to settle there in Many settlers were criminals sent to live in Australia as punishment. For a short time, the newcomers lived peacefully with the Aboriginal people.

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But soon, fighting broke out over who owned the land. In , gold was discovered in Australia. A rush to find riches came as a result, bringing thousands of new immigrants to the country. By six separate colonies existed, and in these colonies joined to form the Federation of Australia. Nearly a quarter of the people who live in Australia were born in other countries. The people are also passionate about sports, including swimming, surfing, sailing, tennis, soccer, cricket, rugby and their own invention — Australian rules football!