Mountains of the canton of Bern
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A mountain is an elevated portion of the
Earth's crust 350px, Plates in the crust of Earth Earth's crust is a thin shell on the outside of Earth, accounting for less than 1% of Earth's volume. It is the top component of the lithosphere, a division of Earth's layers that includes the Crust (geology), ...
, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed
bedrock Bedrock in geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (geology), rocks of which it is composed, and ...

bedrock
. A mountain differs from a
plateau In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (geology), rocks of which it is composed, and the proces ...

plateau
in having a limited summit area, and is larger than a
hill A hill is a landform A landform is a natural or artificial feature of the solid surface of the Earth or other planetary body A planet is an astronomical body Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the scien ...

hill
, typically rising at least 300 metres (1000 feet) above the surrounding land. A few mountains are isolated
summits A summit is a point on a surface that is higher in elevation The elevation of a geographic location (geography), location is its height above or below a fixed reference point, most commonly a reference geoid, a mathematical model of the Earth' ...
, but most occur in
mountain range A mountain range is a series of mountains ranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountain belt is a group of mountain ranges with similarity in form, structure, and alignment that have arisen from the same cause, usu ...

mountain range
s. Mountains are formed through tectonic forces,
erosion In , erosion is the action of surface processes (such as or ) that removes , , or dissolved material from one location on the , and then it to another location. Erosion is distinct from which involves no movement. Removal of rock or soil as ...

erosion
, or
volcanism Volcanism (or volcanicity) is the phenomenon of eruption of molten rock (magma) onto the Earth#Surface, surface of the Earth or a solid-surface planet or moon, where lava, pyroclastics and volcanic gases erupt through a break in the surface called ...
, which act on time scales of up to tens of millions of years. Once mountain building ceases, mountains are slowly leveled through the action of
weathering Weathering is the deterioration of rocks In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (geology ...
, through
slumping Slumping is a technique in which items are made in a kiln , Wrecclesham, Surrey Surrey () is a county in South East England which borders Kent to the east, East Sussex to the southeast, West Sussex to the south, Hampshire to the west, B ...
and other forms of
mass wasting Mass wasting, also known as mass movement, is a general term for the movement of rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categori ...
, as well as through
erosion In , erosion is the action of surface processes (such as or ) that removes , , or dissolved material from one location on the , and then it to another location. Erosion is distinct from which involves no movement. Removal of rock or soil as ...

erosion
by
river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of water ...

river
s and
glacier A glacier (; ) is a persistent body of dense that is constantly moving under its own weight. A glacier forms where the accumulation of exceeds its over many years, often . Glaciers slowly deform and flow under stresses induced by their wei ...

glacier
s. High elevations on mountains produce colder climates than at
sea level Mean sea level (MSL) (often shortened to sea level) is an average In colloquial, ordinary language, an average is a single number taken as representative of a list of numbers, usually the sum of the numbers divided by how many numbers are in the ...

sea level
at similar latitude. These colder climates strongly affect the
ecosystems An ecosystem (or ecological system) consists of all the organisms and the physical environment with which they interact. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the syste ...
of mountains: different elevations have different plants and animals. Because of the less hospitable terrain and climate, mountains tend to be used less for agriculture and more for resource extraction, such as
mining Mining is the extraction of valuable mineral In geology and mineralogy, a mineral or mineral species is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound with a fairly well-defined chemical composition and a specific crystal structure that occu ...

mining
and
logging Logging is the process of cutting, processing, and moving trees to a location for transport. It may include skidder, skidding, on-site processing, and loading of trees or trunk (botany), logs onto logging truck, trucks or flatcar#Skeleton car, s ...

logging
, along with recreation, such as
mountain climbing Mountaineering, or alpinism, is the set of outdoor activities Outdoor recreation or outdoor activity refers to recreation Recreation is an activity of leisure, leisure being discretionary time. The "need to do something for recreation" is an ...
and
skiing Skiing is the use of ski A ski is a narrow strip of semi-rigid material worn underfoot to glide over snow. Substantially longer than wide and characteristically employed in pairs, skis are attached to ski boots with ski bindings, with eit ...

skiing
. The highest mountain on Earth is
Mount Everest Mount Everest (Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's m ...

Mount Everest
in the
Himalayas The Himalayas, or Himalaya (; Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Ind ...

Himalayas
of
Asia Asia () is 's largest and most populous , located primarily in the and . It shares the continental of with the continent of and the continental landmass of with both Europe and . Asia covers an area of , about 30% of Earth's total lan ...

Asia
, whose summit is above
mean sea level There are several kinds of mean in mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (), and quantities and thei ...
. The highest known mountain on any planet in the Solar System is
Olympus Mons Olympus Mons (; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman ...

Olympus Mons
on Mars at .


Definition

There is no universally accepted definition of a mountain. Elevation, volume, relief, steepness, spacing and continuity have been used as criteria for defining a mountain. In the ''
Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the principal of the , published by (OUP). It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a comprehensive resource to scholars and academic researchers, as well as desc ...
'' a mountain is defined as "a natural elevation of the earth surface rising more or less abruptly from the surrounding level and attaining an altitude which, relatively to the adjacent elevation, is impressive or notable." Whether a landform is called a mountain may depend on local usage. outside
Lawton, Oklahoma Lawton is a city in, and the county seat A county seat is an administrative center, seat of government, or capital city of a county or Parish (administrative division), civil parish. The term is used in Canada, China, Romania, Hungary and the Uni ...
, USA, is only from its base to its highest point. Whittow's ''Dictionary of Physical Geography'' states "Some authorities regard eminences above as mountains, those below being referred to as hills." In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, a mountain is usually defined as any summit at least high, which accords with the official UK government's definition that a mountain, for the purposes of access, is a summit of or higher. In addition, some definitions also include a
topographical prominence In topography, prominence (also referred to as autonomous height, relative height, and shoulder drop in US English, and drop or relative height in British English) measures the height of a mountain or hill's summit relative to the lowest contour ...
requirement, such as that the mountain rises above the surrounding terrain. At one time the
U.S. Board on Geographic Names The United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN) is a federal body operating under the United States Secretary of the Interior The United States secretary of the interior is the head of the United States Department of the Interior. The secreta ...
defined a mountain as being or taller, but has abandoned the definition since the 1970s. Any similar landform lower than this height was considered a hill. However, today, the
United States Geological Survey The United States Geological Survey, abbreviated USGS and formerly simply known as the Geological Survey, is a scientific agency Agency may refer to: * a governmental or other institution Institutions, according to Samuel P. Huntington, a ...
(USGS) concludes that these terms do not have technical definitions in the US. The UN Environmental Programme's definition of "mountainous environment" includes any of the following: * Class 1: Elevation greater than . * Class 2: Elevation between and . * Class 3: Elevation between and . * Class 4: Elevation between and , with a slope greater than 2 degrees. * Class 5: Elevation between and , with a slope greater than 5 degrees and/or elevation range within . * Class 6: Elevation between and , with a elevation range within . * Class 7: Isolated inner basins and plateaus less than in area that are completely surrounded by Class 1 to 6 mountains, but do not themselves meet criteria for Class 1 to 6 mountains. Using these definitions, mountains cover 33% of Eurasia, 19% of South America, 24% of North America, and 14% of Africa. As a whole, 24% of the Earth's land mass is mountainous.


Geology

There are three main types of mountains:
volcanic A volcano is a rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object A planet is an astronomical body orbit In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved trajectory of an physical body, object, such as the trajectory of a planet ar ...

volcanic
,
fold Fold or folding may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media *Fold (album), ''Fold'' (album), the debut release by Australian rock band Epicure *Fold (poker), in the game of poker, to discard one's hand and forfeit interest in the current pot *Ab ...
, and
block Block or blocked may refer to: Arts, entertainment and media Broadcasting * Block programming, the result of a programming strategy in broadcasting * W242BX, a radio station licensed to Greenville, South Carolina, United States known as ''96.3 t ...
. All three types are formed from
plate tectonics upright=1.35, Diagram of the internal layering of Earth showing the lithosphere above the asthenosphere (not to scale) Plate tectonics (from the la, label=Late Latin Late Latin ( la, Latinitas serior) is the scholarly name for the written L ...
: when portions of the Earth's crust move, crumple, and dive. Compressional forces, uplift and intrusion of igneous matter forces surface rock upward, creating a landform higher than the surrounding features. The height of the feature makes it either a hill or, if higher and steeper, a mountain. Major mountains tend to occur in long linear arcs, indicating tectonic plate boundaries and activity.


Volcanoes

Volcanoes are formed when
a plate is pushed below another plate A, or a, is the first Letter (alphabet), letter and the first vowel letter of the English alphabet, modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. Its name in English is English alphabet#Letter names, ''a'' (pronounced ), plural En ...

a plate is pushed below another plate
, or at a
mid-ocean ridge A mid-ocean ridge (MOR) is a seafloor mountain system formed by plate tectonics File:Earth cutaway schematic-en.svg, upright=1.35, Diagram of the internal layering of Earth showing the lithosphere above the asthenosphere (not to scale) Plate ...
or hotspot. At a depth of around 100 km, melting occurs in rock above the slab (due to the addition of water), and forms
magma Magma () is the molten or semi-molten natural material from which all s are formed. Magma is found beneath the surface of the , and evidence of has also been discovered on other and some s. Besides molten rock, magma may also contain suspended ...

magma
that reaches the surface. When the magma reaches the surface, it often builds a volcanic mountain, such as a
shield volcano A shield volcano is a type of volcano A volcano is a rupture in the of a , such as , that allows hot , , and to escape from a below the surface. On Earth, volcanoes are most often found where are or , and most are found underwater. Fo ...

shield volcano
or a
stratovolcano A stratovolcano, also known as a composite volcano, is a conical A cone is a three-dimensional space, three-dimensional geometric shape that tapers smoothly from a flat base (frequently, though not necessarily, circular) to a point called the ...

stratovolcano
. Examples of volcanoes include
Mount Fuji , located on the island of Honshū , historically called , is the largest and most populous main island of Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white r ...

Mount Fuji
in Japan and
Mount Pinatubo Mount Pinatubo ( xsb, Bakil nin Pinatobo; pam, Bunduk/Bulkan ning Pinatubu, Bunduk ning Apu Malyari; pag, Palandey/Bulkan na Pinatubu; ilo, Bantay Pinatubo; tgl, Bundok/Bulkang Pinatubo ) is an active volcano, active stratovolcano in the ...

Mount Pinatubo
in the Philippines. The magma does not have to reach the surface in order to create a mountain: magma that solidifies below ground can still form
dome mountain Structural dome on Baffin Island, seen in a planation surface.">planation_surface.html" ;"title="Baffin Island, seen in a planation surface">Baffin Island, seen in a planation surface. A dome is a feature in structural geology consisting of sy ...
s, such as
Navajo Mountain , photo = NavajoMtn.jpg , photo_caption = Navajo Mountain and Lake Powell, looking southeast from the Kaiparowits Plateau , elevation_ft = 10348 , elevation_ref = , prominence_ft = 4226 , prominence_ref = , listing = , location = , m ...
in the US.


Fold mountains

Fold mountains occur when two plates collide: shortening occurs along thrust faults and the crust is overthickened. Since the less dense
continental crust 350px, The thickness of Crust (geology)#Earth's crust, Earth's crust (km) Continental crust is the layer of Igneous rock, igneous, Sedimentary rock, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks that forms the geological continents and the areas of shallo ...
"floats" on the denser mantle rocks beneath, the weight of any crustal material forced upward to form hills,
plateau In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (geology), rocks of which it is composed, and the proces ...

plateau
s or mountains must be of a much greater volume forced downward into the mantle. Thus the continental crust is normally much thicker under mountains, compared to lower lying areas. Rock can
fold Fold or folding may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media *Fold (album), ''Fold'' (album), the debut release by Australian rock band Epicure *Fold (poker), in the game of poker, to discard one's hand and forfeit interest in the current pot *Ab ...
either symmetrically or asymmetrically. The upfolds are
anticline visible at far right). Note the man standing in front of the formation, for scale. New Jersey New Jersey is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic States, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States, Northeastern regions of the United ...

anticline
s and the downfolds are
syncline In structural geology Structural geology is the study of the three-dimensional distribution of Rock (geology), rock units with respect to their Deformation (geology), deformational histories. The primary goal of structural geology is to use measur ...

syncline
s: in asymmetric folding there may also be recumbent and overturned folds. The
Balkan Mountains The Balkan mountain range ( Bulgarian and Serbian: Стара Планина, Stara Planina, "Old Mountain"; ; ) is a mountain range in the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. The range runs 557 km from the Vrashka Chuka Peak on Bulgaria ...
and the
Jura Mountains The Jura Mountains ( , , , ; french: Massif du Jura; german: Juragebirge; it, Massiccio del Giura, rm, Montagnas da Jura) are a sub-alpine mountain range a short distance north of the Western Alps and mainly demarcate a long part of the ...

Jura Mountains
are examples of fold mountains.


Block mountains

Block mountains are caused by faults in the crust: a plane where rocks have moved past each other. When rocks on one side of a fault rise relative to the other, it can form a mountain. The uplifted blocks are block mountains or horsts. The intervening dropped blocks are termed
graben In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (geology), rocks of which it is composed, and the proces ...

graben
: these can be small or form extensive
rift valley A rift valley is a linear shaped lowland between several Highland, highlands or mountain ranges created by the action of a geologic rift. Rifts are formed as a result of the pulling apart of the lithosphere due to extensional tectonics. The ...
systems. This form of
landscape A landscape is the visible features of an area of , its s, and how they integrate with or man-made features.''New Oxford American Dictionary''. A landscape includes the physical elements of ly defined s such as (ice-capped) , , such as s, s, ...

landscape
can be seen in
East Africa East Africa or Eastern Africa is the eastern subregion of the Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including ...
, the
Vosges The Vosges ( , ; german: Vogesen ; gsw, Vogese) are a range of low mountains in Eastern France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily located in Western Europe, consis ...
and
Rhine ), Surselva Surselva Region is one of the eleven administrative districts Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many si ...
valley, and the
Basin and Range Province The Basin and Range Province is a vast physiographic region Physiographic regions of the world are a means of defining Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. About 29% of Earth ...
of Western North America. These areas often occur when the regional stress is extensional and the crust is thinned.


Erosion

During and following uplift, mountains are subjected to the agents of
erosion In , erosion is the action of surface processes (such as or ) that removes , , or dissolved material from one location on the , and then it to another location. Erosion is distinct from which involves no movement. Removal of rock or soil as ...

erosion
(water, wind, ice, and gravity) which gradually wear the uplifted area down. Erosion causes the surface of mountains to be younger than the rocks that form the mountains themselves. produce characteristic landforms, such as
pyramidal peak A pyramidal peak, sometimes called a glacial horn in extreme cases, is an angular, sharply pointed mountain peak which results from the cirque erosion due to multiple glaciers diverging from a central point. Pyramidal peaks are often examples o ...
s, knife-edge
arête with the corrie Red Tarn to the left and Nethermost Cove to the right An arête is a narrow ridge of Rock (geology), rock which separates two valleys. It is typically formed when two glaciers erode parallel U-shaped valleys. Arêtes can also for ...
s, and bowl-shaped
cirque A cirque (; from the Latin word ''circus'') is an amphitheatre An amphitheatre ( British English) or amphitheater ( American English; both ) is an open-air venue used for entertainment, performances, and sports. The term derives from the anc ...
s that can contain lakes.
Plateau In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (geology), rocks of which it is composed, and the proces ...

Plateau
mountains, such as the
Catskills The Catskill Mountains, also known as the Catskills, are a physiographic province of the larger Appalachian Mountains The Appalachian Mountains, often called the Appalachians, are a system of mountains in eastern North America N ...

Catskills
, are formed from the erosion of an uplifted plateau.


Climate

Climate in the mountains becomes colder at high
elevation The elevation of a geographic Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific ...

elevation
s, due to an interaction between
radiation upThe international symbol for types and levels of ionizing radiation (radioactivity) that are unsafe for unshielded humans. Radiation, in general, exists throughout nature, such as in light and sound. In physics Physics (from grc ...

radiation
and
convection Convection is single or multiphase fluid flow In physics and engineering, fluid dynamics is a subdiscipline of fluid mechanics that describes the flow of fluids—liquids and gases. It has several subdisciplines, including ''aerodynami ...

convection
. Sunlight in the
visible spectrum The visible spectrum is the portion of the that is to the . in this range of s is called ' or simply . A typical will respond to wavelengths from about 380 to about 750 . In terms of frequency, this corresponds to a band in the vicinity of ...
hits the ground and heats it. The ground then heats the air at the surface. If
radiation upThe international symbol for types and levels of ionizing radiation (radioactivity) that are unsafe for unshielded humans. Radiation, in general, exists throughout nature, such as in light and sound. In physics Physics (from grc ...

radiation
were the only way to transfer heat from the ground to space, the
greenhouse effect The greenhouse effect is the process by which radiation from a planet's atmosphere warms the planet's surface to a temperature above what it would be without this atmosphere. Radiatively active gases (i.e., es) in a planet's atmosphere radi ...

greenhouse effect
of gases in the atmosphere would keep the ground at roughly , and the temperature would decay exponentially with height. However, when air is hot, it tends to expand, which lowers its density. Thus, hot air tends to rise and transfer heat upward. This is the process of
convection Convection is single or multiphase fluid flow In physics and engineering, fluid dynamics is a subdiscipline of fluid mechanics that describes the flow of fluids—liquids and gases. It has several subdisciplines, including ''aerodynami ...

convection
. Convection comes to equilibrium when a parcel of air at a given altitude has the same density as its surroundings. Air is a poor conductor of heat, so a parcel of air will rise and fall without exchanging heat. This is known as an
adiabatic process In thermodynamics Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat, Work (thermodynamics), work, and temperature, and their relation to energy, entropy, and the physical properties of matter and radiation. The behavior of these qua ...

adiabatic process
, which has a characteristic pressure-temperature dependence. As the pressure gets lower, the temperature decreases. The rate of decrease of temperature with elevation is known as the
adiabatic lapse rate The lapse rate is the rate at which an atmospheric variable, normally temperature Temperature is a physical quantity that expresses hot and cold. It is the manifestation of thermal energy, present in all matter, which is the source of the o ...
, which is approximately 9.8 °C per kilometre (or per 1000 feet) of altitude. Note that the presence of water in the atmosphere complicates the process of convection. Water vapor contains latent
heat of vaporization The enthalpy of vaporization (symbol ), also known as the (latent) heat of vaporization or heat of evaporation, is the amount of energy (enthalpy Enthalpy , a property of a thermodynamic system, is the sum of the system's internal energy and ...
. As air rises and cools, it eventually becomes saturated and cannot hold its quantity of water vapor. The water vapor condenses (forming
cloud In meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences Atmospheric science is the study of the Earth's atmosphere File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. L ...

cloud
s), and releases heat, which changes the lapse rate from the
dry adiabatic lapse rate The lapse rate is the rate at which an atmospheric variable, normally temperature Temperature is a physical quantity that expresses hot and cold. It is the manifestation of thermal energy, present in all matter, which is the source of the o ...
to the
moist adiabatic lapse rate The lapse rate is the rate at which an atmospheric variable, normally temperature in Earth's atmosphere, falls with altitude. ''Lapse rate'' arises from the word ''lapse'', in the sense of a gradual fall. It corresponds to the vertical component o ...
(5.5 °C per kilometre or per 1000 feet) The actual lapse rate can vary by altitude and by location. Therefore, moving up 100 metres on a mountain is roughly equivalent to moving 80 kilometres (45 miles or 0.75° of
latitude In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and planets. The first person to use the ...

latitude
) towards the nearest pole. This relationship is only approximate, however, since local factors such as proximity to oceans (such as the Arctic Ocean) can drastically modify the climate. As the altitude increases, the main form of
precipitation In meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences Atmospheric science is the study of the Earth's atmosphere File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. L ...
becomes
snow Snow comprises individual ice Ice is water Water is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, Transparency and translucency, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the mai ...

snow
and the winds increase. The effect of the climate on the ecology at an elevation can be largely captured through a combination of amount of precipitation, and the
biotemperature 600px, Holdridge life zone classification scheme. Although conceived as three-dimensional by its originator, it is usually shown as a two-dimensional array of hexagons in a triangular frame. The Holdridge life zones system is a global bioclimatic s ...
, as described by
Leslie Holdridge Leslie Ransselaer Holdridge (September 29, 1907 – June 19, 1999) was an American botanist and climatologist. He was the father of composer Lee Holdridge. Career Image:Lifezones Pengo.svg, 300px, Diagram of life zone classifications. In his f ...
in 1947. Biotemperature is the mean temperature; all temperatures below are considered to be 0 °C. When the temperature is below 0 °C, plants are dormant, so the exact temperature is unimportant. The peaks of mountains with permanent snow can have a biotemperature below .


Ecology

The colder climate on mountains affects the plants and animals residing on mountains. A particular set of plants and animals tend to be adapted to a relatively narrow range of climate. Thus, ecosystems tend to lie along elevation bands of roughly constant climate. This is called
altitudinal zonation Altitudinal zonation (or elevational zonation) in mountainous regions describes the natural layering of ecosystems that occurs at distinct elevations due to varying environmental conditions. Temperature, humidity, soil composition, and insolation, ...
. In regions with dry climates, the tendency of mountains to have higher precipitation as well as lower temperatures also provides for varying conditions, which enhances zonation. Some plants and animals found in altitudinal zones tend to become isolated since the conditions above and below a particular zone will be inhospitable and thus constrain their movements or
dispersal Dispersal may refer to: * Biological dispersal, the movement of organisms from their birth site to their breeding site, or from one breeding site to another ** Dispersal vector, forces that carry seeds for plants ** Oceanic dispersal, the movement ...
. These isolated ecological systems are known as
sky island File:Chiricahua mtns-kmf.JPG, The Chiricahua Mountains above the desert Sky islands are isolated mountains surrounded by radically different lowland environments. The term originally referred to those found near the southern borders of the US S ...
s. Altitudinal zones tend to follow a typical pattern. At the highest elevations, trees cannot grow, and whatever life may be present will be of the
alpine Alpine may refer to: Places * Alps, a European mountain range * Alpine states, associated with the mountain range, or relating to any lofty mountain areas * Mountainous or alpine; the mountains. Australia * Alpine, New South Wales, a Northern Vill ...
type, resembling
tundra In physical geography Physical geography (also known as physiography) is one of the two fields of geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the ...

tundra
. Just below the
tree line The tree line is the edge of the habitat at which trees are capable of growing. It is found at high elevations and high latitudes. Beyond the tree line, trees cannot tolerate the environmental conditions (usually cold temperatures, extreme snowpa ...

tree line
, one may find
subalpine Montane ecosystems are found on the slopes of mountain A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. A mountain differs from a plateau in having a limited summit area ...
forests of trees, which can withstand cold, dry conditions. Below that,
montane forest Montane ecosystems are found on the slopes of mountains. The alpine climate in these regions strongly affects the ecosystem because temperatures lapse rate, fall as elevation increases, causing the ecosystem to stratify. This stratification is a c ...
s grow. In the temperate portions of the earth, those forests tend to be needleleaf trees, while in the tropics, they can be
broadleaf tree A broad-leaved, broad-leaf, or broadleaf tree is any tree within the diverse botanical group of angiosperms The flowering plants, also known as Angiospermae (), or Magnoliophyta (), are the most diverse group of land plants, with 64 orders, 416 ...
s growing in a
rain forest Rainforests are forest A forest is an area of land dominated by trees. Hundreds of definitions of forest are used throughout the world, incorporating factors such as tree density, tree height, land use, legal standing and ecological func ...

rain forest
.


Mountains and humans

The highest known permanently tolerable altitude is at . At very high altitudes, the decreasing atmospheric pressure means that less oxygen is available for breathing, and there is less protection against solar radiation (). Above elevation, there is not enough oxygen to support human life. This is known as the "
death zone In mountaineering, the death zone refers to altitudes above a certain point where the pressure of oxygen is Effects of high altitude on humans, insufficient to sustain human life for an extended time span. This point is generally tagged as , less ...
". The summits of
Mount Everest Mount Everest (Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's m ...

Mount Everest
and are in the death zone.


Mountain societies and economies

Mountains are generally less preferable for
human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes ...

human
habitation than lowlands, because of harsh weather and little level ground suitable for
agriculture Agriculture is the science, art and practice of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of , whereby farming of species created food that enabled people to live in cities. The began thousands of ...

agriculture
. While 7% of the land area of Earth is above , only 140 million people live above that altitude and only 20-30 million people above elevation. About half of mountain dwellers live in the
Andes The Andes, Andes Mountains or Andean Mountains ( es, Cordillera de los Andes) are the List of mountain ranges#Mountain ranges by length, longest continental mountain range in the world, forming a continuous highland along the western edge of Sout ...

Andes
, Central Asia, and Africa. With limited access to infrastructure, only a handful of human communities exist above of elevation. Many are small and have heavily specialized economies, often relying on industries such as agriculture, mining, and tourism. An example of such a specialized town is
La Rinconada, Peru La Rinconada is a town in the Peruvian Andes The Andes, Andes Mountains or Andean Mountains ( es, Cordillera de los Andes) are the List of mountain ranges#Mountain ranges by length, longest continental mountain range in the world, forming a con ...
, a gold-mining town and the highest elevation human habitation at . A counterexample is
El Alto El Alto (Spanish for "The Heights") is the second-largest city in Bolivia, located adjacent to La Paz in Pedro Domingo Murillo Province on the Altiplano highlands. El Alto is today one of Bolivia's fastest-growing urban centers, with an estimate ...

El Alto
,
Bolivia Bolivia ; ay, Wuliwya ; : ''Puliwya'' , officially the Plurinational State of Bolivia, is a located in western-central . The constitutional capital is , while the and executive capital is . The largest city and principal industrial ce ...

Bolivia
, at , which has a highly diverse service and manufacturing economy and a population of nearly 1 million. Traditional mountain societies rely on agriculture, with higher risk of
crop failure Harvesting is the process of gathering a ripe crop from the field Field may refer to: Expanses of open ground * Field (agriculture), an area of land used for agricultural purposes * Airfield, an aerodrome that lacks the infrastructure of an ...
than at lower elevations. Minerals often occur in mountains, with
mining Mining is the extraction of valuable mineral In geology and mineralogy, a mineral or mineral species is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound with a fairly well-defined chemical composition and a specific crystal structure that occu ...

mining
being an important component of the economics of some montane societies. More recently,
tourism at the archaeological site of Chichén Itza. in Vienna. Tourism is travel for pleasure or business; also the theory and practice of touring (disambiguation), touring, the business of attracting, accommodating, and entertaining tourists, and th ...

tourism
supports mountain communities, with some intensive development around attractions such as
national park#REDIRECT National park A national park is a park in use for Conservation (ethic), conservation purposes, created and protected by national governments. Often it is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state dec ...

national park
s or
ski resorts A ski resort is a resort developed for skiing Skiing is a means of transport using skis to glide on snow. Variations of purpose include basic transport, a recreational activity, or a competitive winter sport. Many types of competitive skiing ...

ski resorts
. About 80% of
mountain people Hill people, also referred to as mountain people, is a general term for people who live in the hill A hill is a landform A landform is a natural or artificial feature of the solid surface of the Earth or other planetary body. Landforms t ...
live below the poverty line. Most of the world's
river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of water ...

river
s are fed from mountain sources, with snow acting as a storage mechanism for downstream users. More than half of humanity depends on mountains for water. In
geopolitics Geopolitics (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxi ...
mountains are often seen as preferable "
natural boundaries A natural border is a border Borders are geographic boundaries of political entities or legal jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin ''Wikt:ius#Latin, juris'' 'law' + ''Wikt:dictio, dictio'' 'declaration') is the practical authority granted t ...
" between polities.


Mountaineering

Mountain climbing, or alpinism is the
sport Sport pertains to any form of competitive Competition is a rivalry A rivalry is the state of two people or groups engaging in a lasting competitive relationship. Rivalry is the "against each other" spirit between two competing sides. ...

sport
,
hobby A hobby is considered to be a regular activity that is done for enjoyment, typically during one's leisure time Leisure has often been defined as a quality of experience or as free time. Free time is time Time is the indefinite ...

hobby
or
profession A Profession is a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards and who hold themselves out as, and are accepted by the public as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised body of learning derived from re ...

profession
of hiking, skiing, and climbing mountains. While mountaineering began as attempts to reach the highest point of unclimbed big mountains it has branched into specializations that address different aspects of the mountain and consists of three areas: rock-craft, snow-craft and skiing, depending on whether the route chosen is over
rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, chemical composition and the way in w ...
,
snow Snow comprises individual ice Ice is water Water is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, Transparency and translucency, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the mai ...

snow
or
ice Ice is into a state. Depending on the presence of such as particles of soil or bubbles of air, it can appear transparent or a more or less bluish-white color. In the , ice is abundant and occurs naturally from as close to the Sun as to ...

ice
. All require experience, athletic ability, and technical knowledge of the terrain to maintain safety.


Mountains as sacred places

Mountains often play a significant role in
religion Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion. Different religions may or may not contain v ...

religion
. There are for example a number of sacred mountains within
Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, Elláda, ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in . Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of 2021; is its largest and capital city, followed by . Situated on the southern tip of the , ...

Greece
such as
Mount Olympus Mount Olympus (; el, Όλυμπος, Ólympos, also , ) is the highest mountain A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. A mountain differs from a plateau in ...

Mount Olympus
which was held to be the home of the gods. In Japanese culture, the 3,776.24 m (12,389 ft) volcano of
Mount Fuji , located on the island of Honshū , historically called , is the largest and most populous main island of Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white r ...

Mount Fuji
is also held to be sacred with tens of thousands of Japanese ascending it each year.
Mount Kailash Mount Kailash (also Kailasa; ''Kangrinboqê'' or ''Gang Rinpoche''; Tibetan: གངས་རིན་པོ་ཆེ; ; sa, कैलास, ), is a high peak in the Kailash Range (Gangdisê Mountains), which forms part of the Transhim ...

Mount Kailash
, in the
Tibet Autonomous Region The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) or Xizang Autonomous Region, called Tibet or Xizang for short, is a province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman '' pr ...
of China, is considered to be sacred in four religions:
Hinduism Hinduism () is an and ', or way of life. It is the , with over 1.2 billion followers, or 15–16% of the global population, known as . The word ' is an , and while Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, many practitione ...

Hinduism
,
Bon Bon, also spelled Bön () is considered to be the native pre-Buddhist religious tradition of Tibet. A distinction is sometimes made between: # the Old Bon or Bön nying (), dating back to the pre-dynastic era; # the Eternal Bon or Yungdrung B ...

Bon
,
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and ...

Buddhism
, and
Jainism Jainism (), traditionally known as ''Jain Dharma'', is an ancient Indian religion Indian religions, sometimes also termed Dharmic religions or Indic religions, are the religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent; namely Hinduis ...

Jainism
. In
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island upright=1.15, Great_Britain.html"_;"title="Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain">Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain_(right),_are_large_islands_of_north-west_Europe image:Small_Island_in ...

Ireland
,
pilgrimage A pilgrimage is a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, afte ...
s are made up the
Mount Brandon Mount Brandon or Brandon (), at , is one of the ten highest peaks in Ireland, being the 8th–highest peak in Ireland Ireland (; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. I ...

Mount Brandon
by
Irish Catholic Irish most commonly refers to: * Someone or something of, from, or related to: ** Ireland Ireland (; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Brit ...
s. The
Himalaya The Himalayas, or Himalaya (; Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; , , ) is a of that belongs to the branch of the . It arose in South Asia after its predecessor languages had there from the northwest in the late . Sanskrit is t ...

Himalaya
n peak of
Nanda Devi Nanda Devi is the second highest mountain in India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous country, the Li ...

Nanda Devi
is associated with the
Hindu Hindus (; ) are persons who regard themselves as culturally, ethnically, or religiously adhering to aspects of Hinduism. Jeffery D. Long (2007), A Vision for Hinduism, IB Tauris, , pages 35–37 Historically, the term has also been used as ...

Hindu
goddesses Nanda and Sunanda; it has been off-limits to climbers since 1983.
Mount Ararat Mount Ararat ( ; hy, Մասիս, Masis and ; ku, Çiyayê Agirî; ) is a snow-capped and dormant compound volcano in the extreme east of Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country straddling S ...

Mount Ararat
is a sacred mountain, as it is believed to be the landing place of
Noah's Ark Noah's Ark ( he, תיבת נח; : ''Tevat Noaḥ'')The word "ark" in modern English comes from Old English ''aerca'', meaning a chest or box. (See Cresswell 2010, p.22) The Hebrew word for the vessel, ''teva'', occurs twice in the , in the fl ...

Noah's Ark
. In Europe and especially in the
Alps The Alps ; german: Alpen ; it, Alpi ; rm, Alps; sl, Alpe ) are the highest and most extensive mountain range A mountain range is a series of mountains ranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountain belt i ...

Alps
,
summit cross A summit cross (german: Gipfelkreuz) is a cross A cross is a geometrical figure consisting of two intersecting lines or bars, usually perpendicular to each other. The lines usually run vertically and horizontally. A cross of oblique lines, in ...
es are often erected on the tops of prominent mountains.


Superlatives

Heights of mountains are typically measured
above sea level Above may refer to: * Above (artist), Tavar Zawacki (born 1981), contemporary urban artist * ''Above'' (magazine), an American environmental magazine 2009–2010 *Above (Mad Season album), ''Above'' (Mad Season album), 1995 *Above (Pillar album), ' ...
. Using this metric,
Mount Everest Mount Everest (Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's m ...

Mount Everest
is the highest mountain on Earth, at . There are at least 100 mountains with heights of over
above sea level Above may refer to: * Above (artist), Tavar Zawacki (born 1981), contemporary urban artist * ''Above'' (magazine), an American environmental magazine 2009–2010 *Above (Mad Season album), ''Above'' (Mad Season album), 1995 *Above (Pillar album), ' ...
, all of which are located in central and southern Asia. The highest mountains above sea level are generally not the highest above the surrounding terrain. There is no precise definition of surrounding base, but
Denali Denali (; also known as Mount McKinley, its former official name) is the highest mountain A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. A mountain differs from a ...

Denali
,
Mount Kilimanjaro Mount Kilimanjaro () is a dormant volcano A volcano is a rupture in the of a , such as , that allows hot , , and to escape from a below the surface. On Earth, volcanoes are most often found where are or , and most are found und ...

Mount Kilimanjaro
and
Nanga Parbat Nanga Parbat (), known locally as Diamer (), is the ninth-highest mountain in the world at above sea level. Located in the Diamer District of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan Pakistan, . Pronounced variably in English language, English as ...

Nanga Parbat
are possible candidates for the tallest mountain on land by this measure. The bases of mountain islands are below sea level, and given this consideration
Mauna Kea Mauna Kea (; ; abbreviation for ''Mauna a Wākea''); is a dormant volcano A volcano is a rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object, such as Earth, that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and gases to escape from a magma chamber bel ...

Mauna Kea
( above sea level) is the world's tallest mountain and
volcano A volcano is a rupture in the of a , such as , that allows hot , , and to escape from a below the surface. On Earth, volcanoes are most often found where are or , and most are found underwater. For example, a , such as the , has volcanoe ...

volcano
, rising about from the
Pacific Ocean The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. T ...

Pacific Ocean
floor. The highest mountains are not generally the most voluminous.
Mauna Loa Mauna Loa ( or ; Hawaiian Hawaiian may refer to: * Hawaii state residents, regardless of ancestry * Native Hawaiians, the current term for the indigenous people of the Hawaiian Islands or their descendants * Hawaiian language Historic uses * t ...

Mauna Loa
() is the largest mountain on Earth in terms of base area (about ) and volume (about ).
Mount Kilimanjaro Mount Kilimanjaro () is a dormant volcano A volcano is a rupture in the of a , such as , that allows hot , , and to escape from a below the surface. On Earth, volcanoes are most often found where are or , and most are found und ...

Mount Kilimanjaro
is the largest non-shield volcano in terms of both base area () and volume ().
Mount Logan Mount Logan () is the highest mountain A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. A mountain differs from a plateau in having a limited summit area, and is lar ...

Mount Logan
is the largest non-volcanic mountain in base area (). The highest mountains above sea level are also not those with peaks farthest from the centre of the Earth, because the
figure of the Earth Figure of the Earth is a term of art Jargon is the specialized terminology Terminology is a general word for the group of specialized words or meanings relating to a particular field, and also the study of such terms and their use. This is ...
is not spherical. Sea level closer to the equator is several miles farther from the centre of the Earth. The summit of
Chimborazo Chimborazo () is a currently inactive stratovolcano in the Cordillera Occidental range of the Andes The Andes, Andes Mountains or Andean Mountains ( es, Cordillera de los Andes) are the List of mountain ranges#Mountain ranges by length, long ...
,
Ecuador Ecuador ( ; ; : ''Ikwayur''; : ''Ecuador'' or ''Ekuatur''), officially the Republic of Ecuador ( es, República del Ecuador, which literally translates as "Republic of the "; : ''Ikwadur Ripuwlika''; : ''Ekuatur Nunka''), is a country in n ...

Ecuador
's tallest mountain, is usually considered to be the farthest point from the Earth's centre, although the southern summit of
Peru , , image_flag = Flag_of_Peru.svg , image_coat = Escudo_nacional_del_Perú.svg , other_symbol = Great Seal of the State , other_symbol_type = National seal , national_motto ...

Peru
's tallest mountain,
Huascarán Huascarán () (Quechuan languages, Quechua: Waskaran) or Mataraju is a mountain in the Peruvian province of Yungay Province, Yungay (Ancash Region, Ancash Department), situated in the Cordillera Blanca range of the western Andes. The highest south ...

Huascarán
, is another contender. Both have elevations above sea level more than less than that of Everest.


See also

*
List of mountain ranges This is a list of mountain ranges on Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. About 29% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continent A continent is one of several ...
*
List of peaks by prominence This is a list of mountain A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. A mountain differs from a plateau in having a limited summit area, and is larger than a hil ...
*
List of ski areas and resorts This is a list of ski areas and resorts around the world. Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjac ...
* Lists of mountains *


References


External links

* * {{Authority control Geography terminology Earth's crust