In the course of traveling throughout the United States and the world, I have been
fortunate to experience arctic and alpine environments firsthand. I have visited
Lapland and the Land of the Midnight Sun, climbed mountains in the Sierra Nevada and the Pyrenees, and hiked over many high passes in the mountains of
North America, Europe, and Asia. Walking through a flower-filled meadow and
hearing the whistle of a marmot from a rock pile is a treat for the senses.
This book can be only an introduction to a vast topic that would take volumes
to thoroughly explore. It covers a small part of the variety in the natural world,
much of which is at risk because of human activities, whether purposeful or inadvertent. A little knowledge of a subject arouses curiosity—a desire to learn more.
And as one learns more, the subject takes on greater importance. Conservation
issues become more meaningful when the public is aware of the interactions
among elements in the natural world. Hopefully, the information in these pages
will instill an appreciation for arctic and alpine environments and their natural
inhabitants. Instead of seeing individual plants in a botanic garden or animals in
captivity, readers will have a feeling for the value of each in its natural place in the
Arctic and alpine biomes are the cold regions beyond the limit of tree growth,
either because of latitude or elevation. The first chapter explains elements, such as
temperature, precipitation, and forms of life, common to the Arctic, Antarctic, and
alpine regions. It also mentions differences, which are elaborated on in subsequent
chapters. Selected geographic regions are described in chapters dealing with Arctic
and Antarctic, mid-latitude alpine environments, and tropical alpine regions.