Alpine complex

Vegetation formation map


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Key:
<1%
1-10%
10-50%
>50%
Estimated percentage landcover for vegetation formation

Overview

The snow country on mainland Australia occurs in the southern section of the Great Dividing Range, extending from the high country of the ACT, through the Snowy Mountains in NSW to the highlands of Victoria. Although Australia’s alpine zone occupies less than 1% of the continent’s land area, it hosts many unique and remarkable ecological communities - many of which are only found in Australia. Many of the values of Australia’s alpine zone lie in its disparity to the stereotypical icy, steep, rugged peaks of alpine areas elsewhere.

Australia’s alpine complex encompasses heathlands, herbfields, freshwater bogs and alpine fajeldmarks. Small-leaved shrubs, herbs and tussock grasses dominate the vegetation, while altitudinal climatic conditions inhibit tree growth. Site conditions, such as exposure, duration of snow cover and degree of waterlogging, determine formation of vegetation communities. There is a high level of local endemism, with 20 species of plants found only on the Kosciuszko Plateau and approximately 50 species are restricted to the mainland alpine zone.

One of the most serious long-term threats to the alpine biota is climate change. It has been predicted that a temperature increase of just 3°C could alter the climate of the area that is currently alpine to that of the subalpine zone. This change in distribution and duration of precipitation (including snow cover) and increased occurrence of extreme weather events, such as bushfire and drought, will result in the loss of many rare endemic alpine flora and fauna communities.

Threatened species in this vegetation formation

See a list of species, populations and ecological communities associated with the Alpine complex formation.

Find species in a more specific vegetation class

The Alpine complex formation can be divided into the following classes. Select a vegetation class on the list below to see a list of species associated with it: