Nationalpark Hohe Tauern

Habitats
in the Hohe Tauern National Park

Diversity in a small area: Moving through the habitats from the valley right up to the summit regions in the protected area is the equivalent of undertaking a journey from Central Europe to the Arctic.


Four altitudinal belts – a mosaic of diverse habitats

The Hohe Tauern cover over approximately 100 kilometres in length in the Austrian Central Alps. The 3,798 m high Grossglockner is Austria's highest mountain. The flora and fauna changes as you move from the valleys at 600 to 700 metres above sea level to the highest point in Hohe Tauern with glaciers beyond the 3000-metre mark. Glaciers and rivers split up the mountain relief of the Hohe Tauern region over millions of years and formed longitudinal and transversal valleys, wide valley floors, gorges, cirques and ridges. The four altitudinal belts in the national park represent a colourful mosaic of habitats and climate zones. The vegetation period becomes shorter the higher up you go.


Montane zone

700 to approx. 1,700 m

The montane zone is also referred to as the mountain forest zone. Rich deciduous mixed forests gradually change to the typical mountain spruce forests with increasing altitude. Dead trees are the habitat for many lichens, fungi and animals – such as the black woodpecker which creates its nest holes here. Living alongside the typical forest residents of red deer, foxes and squirrels, you will find many birds in the forests. Red crossbills, pygmy owls, woodpeckers and tiny species such as the goldcrest feel at home in the mountain forests of the Hohe Tauern National Park.


Subalpine level

1,600 to 2,300 m

In this altitudinal belt, you will find the typical larch-stone pine forests. The Oberhaus stone pine forest is for example the largest stone pine forest in the Eastern Alps. The Subalpine level is heavily characterised by a landscape cultivated by man. In order to create grazing areas, farmer cleared large areas of forest centuries ago. This created the pastures with meadows and sparse larch stock. Shrubs such as blueberries and Alpine roses and mosses formed the undergrowth. Typical examples of animals at the Subalpine level are the black grouse and the spotted nutcracker.  


Alpine level

1,600 to 3,000 m

In the shrub belt with Alpine roses, the Alpine grassland reaches the polar level, the so-called montane grassland level. The vegetation becomes sparser with increasing altitude. Different grasses – such as bent sedge or mat grass with mountain arnica, bearded bellflowers and Alpine avens – are typical for this zone. These altitudes are home to ibex and marmots as well as the alpine salamander, which can warm its body well thanks to its dark colour.


Nival level

From 3,000 m altitude

The nival level is found in the area of the peaks over 3,000 metres above sea level. Rock, snow and ice make for a pretty hostile environment. Here, conditions prevail just like in the Arctic: extreme cold and extreme heat in the summer, high levels of UV radiation, strong winds and very short vegetation periods. This is the habitat for exceptional specialists who have learnt to survive during the course of evolution despite these adverse conditions. There are plants such as the glacier buttercup, the Alpine toadflax and many species of lichens.


South side and north side

In addition to the effects of altitudinal zonation, the direction of the slope on the high mountains plays a vital role too. On the shaded northern slopes, there are symbiotic communities that you will not find on the sunny southern slopes. The Tauern south side has a more favourable climate compared to its north side.  The snow line and the vegetation altitudinal belts are higher in the south. Heat loving plant and animal species such as the rock partridge, the crag martin and the Alpine swift have their habitats on the south side.



National park history -

the formation of the Alps

 

 

The Tauern Window is an unusual geological feature:

You can view an exciting journey through the millennia of Earth's history.

 

Read more

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