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The SOUTHERN ALPS (Māori : Kā Tiritiri-o-te-Moana) is a mountain range extending along much of the length of New Zealand's South Island , reaching its greatest elevations near the island's western side. The term "Southern Alps" generally refers to the entire range, although separate names are given to many of the smaller ranges that form part of it.

The range includes the South Island's MAIN DIVIDE, which separates the water catchments of the more heavily populated eastern side of the island from those on the west coast. Politically, the Main Divide forms the boundary between the Canterbury and West Coast Regions .

CONTENTS

* 1 Location and description * 2 Geology * 3 Flora * 4 Fauna * 5 Threats and preservation * 6 Panoramic view * 7 References * 8 External links

LOCATION AND DESCRIPTION

The Southern Alps
Southern Alps
run 500 km north to south. Their tallest peak is Aoraki / Mount Cook
Aoraki / Mount Cook
, the highest point in New Zealand at 3,724 metres (12,218 ft) and there are sixteen other points in the range that exceed 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) in height. The mountains are cut through with glacial valleys and lakes. According to an inventory conducted in the late 1970s, the Southern Alps
Southern Alps
contained over 3,000 glaciers larger than hectare , the longest of which – the Tasman Glacier
Glacier
– is 29 kilometres (18 mi) in length down towards Lake Pukaki . A chain of glacial lakes are found on the eastern side of the ridge from Lake Coleridge in the north to Lake Wakatipu in Otago in the south.

Settlements include Maruia Springs, a spa near Lewis Pass
Lewis Pass
, the town of Arthur\'s Pass .

The Southern Alps
Southern Alps
were named by Captain Cook
Captain Cook
on 23 March 1770, who described their "prodigious height". They had previously been noted by Abel Tasman
Abel Tasman
in 1642, whose description of the South Island's west coast is often translated as "a land uplifted high".

The climate is cold with snow and ice year-round at the highest points.

Because of its orientation perpendicular to the prevailing westerly winds, the range creates excellent wave soaring conditions for glider pilots. The town of Omarama , in the lee of the mountains, has gained an international reputation for its gliding conditions. The prevailing westerlies also create a weather pattern known as the Nor\'west arch , in which moist air is pushed up over the mountains, forming an arch of cloud in an otherwise blue sky. This weather pattern is frequently visible in summer across Canterbury and North Otago
Otago
. The 'Nor'wester' is a foehn wind similar to the Chinook of Canada, where mountain ranges in the path of prevailing moisture laden winds force air upwards, thus cooling the air and condensing the moisture to rain, producing hot dry winds in the descending air lee of the mountains.

GEOLOGY

View of Mount Cook
Mount Cook
, the highest peak, from the Hooker Valley Track View of the Southern Alps
Southern Alps
from road

The Southern Alps
Southern Alps
lie along a geological plate boundary , part of the Pacific Ring of Fire
Pacific Ring of Fire
, with the Pacific Plate
Pacific Plate
to the southeast pushing westward and colliding with the northward-moving Indo-Australian Plate to the northwest. Over the last 45 million years, the collision has pushed up a 20 km thickness of rocks on the Pacific Plate
Pacific Plate
to form the Alps, although much of this has been eroded away. Uplift has been most rapid during the last 5 million years, and the mountains continue to be raised today by tectonic pressure, causing earthquakes on the Alpine Fault
Alpine Fault
and other nearby faults. Despite the substantial uplift, most of the relative motion along the Alpine Fault
Alpine Fault
is transverse , not vertical . However, significant dip-slip occurs on the plate boundary to the north and east of the North Island, in the Hikurangi Trench
Hikurangi Trench
and Kermadec Trench . The transfer of motion from strike-slip on the Alpine Fault
Alpine Fault
to dip-slip motion at these subduction zones to the north creates the Marlborough Fault System , which has resulted in significant uplift in the region.

In 2017 a large international team of scientists reported they had discovered beneath Whataroa , a small township on the Alpine Fault, "extreme" hydrothermal activity which "could be commercially very significant".

FLORA

The mountains are rich in flora with about 25% of the country's plant species being found above the treeline in alpine plant habitats and grassland with mountain beech forest at lower elevations (of the eastern side but not in Westland ). The cold windswept slopes above the treeline are covered with areas of fellfield . To the east, the Alps descend to the high grasslands of Canterbury and Otago
Otago
. Plants adapted to the alpine conditions include woody shrubs like Hebe , Dracophyllum , and Coprosma , the conifer snow totara (Podocarpus nivalis) and Carex sedge grasses.

FAUNA

Wildlife of the mountains includes the endemic rock wren (Xenicus gilviventris) and the kea , a large parrot that was once hunted as a pest. There are also a number of endemic insects adapted to these high altitudes especially flies, moths, beetles, and bees. The beech forests of the lower elevations are important habitat for two birds; the great spotted kiwi (Apteryx haastii) and the South Island
South Island
kaka (Nestor meridionalis meridionalis).

THREATS AND PRESERVATION

The mountains are inaccessible and retain their natural vegetation. A large proportion of the range is well protected as part of various national parks, notably the Westland Tai Poutini National Park , Mount Aspiring National Park , and Aoraki/ Mount Cook
Mount Cook
National Park or protected areas such as Lake Sumner Forest Park . Indigenous plant life is affected by introduced animals such as red deer (Cervus elaphus), chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), and Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus) all of which have at times been targeted for culling, while the birds and reptiles are vulnerable to introduced predators.

PANORAMIC VIEW

Panoramic view of some of the Southern Alps
Southern Alps
in Winter from the summit of Hamilton Peak in the Craigieburn Range .

REFERENCES

* ^ "ROUTEBURN TRACK". Department of Conservation. Retrieved 10 April 2015. * ^ Beck, Alan Copland (2009) . "Topography". In McLintock, A.H. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. * ^ http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/mountains/page-1 * ^ Chinn TJ (2001). "Distribution of the glacial water resources of New Zealand" (PDF). Journal of Hydrology. New Zealand. 40 (2): 139–187. * ^ Lambert M, ed. (1989). Air New Zealand Almanack. Wellington: New Zealand Press Association. p. 165. * ^ Reed, A. W. (1975). Place names of New Zealand. Wellington: A. H. & A. W. Reed. ISBN 0-589-00933-8 . p. 384. * ^ Orsman, H. and Moore, J. (eds) (1988) Heinemann Dictionary of New Zealand Quotations, Heinemann , Page 629. * ^ Campbell, Hamish; Hutching, Gerard (2007). In Search of Ancient New Zealand. North Shore and Wellington, New Zealand: Penguin Books, in association with GNS Science. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-143-02088-2 . * ^ Campbell, Hamish; Hutching, Gerard (2007). In Search of Ancient New Zealand. North Shore and Wellington, New Zealand: Penguin Books, in association with GNS Science. pp. 204–205. ISBN 978-0-143-02088-2 . * ^ Sutherland, R., Townend, J., Toy, V., Upton, P., Coussens, J., and 61 other (2017) "Extreme hydrothermal conditions at an active plate-bounding fault". Letter to Nature. doi :10.1038/nature22355 * ^ Geothermal discovery on West Coast Otago
Otago
Daily Times, 18 May 2017. * ^ " South Island
South Island
montane grasslands". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund.

EXTERNAL

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