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Switzerland TravelSwitzerland guide / Switzerland flora & fauna

Switzerland flora & fauna

Because of the range of climates and altitudes in Switzerland, there is a broad variety of plants and animals there
Because of the range of climates and altitudes in Switzerland, there is a broad variety of plants and animals there. For example, at low altitudes, the trees include cypress, walnut, chestnut, and even palm trees, plus orange trees, almond trees, and fig trees. Once you go higher in altitude, maple, beech, and oak trees thrive up to 1,200 meters. Up to 1,700 meters in altitude, fir and pine trees abound, and up to 2,130 meters, the species include dwarf pine, cembra pine, larches, rhododendron, and whortleberries. Once you get past the snow line, there are still more than 100 plant species, including the famous edelweiss.

As for animals native to Switzerland, the range is broad as well. Wild animals include fox, otter, boar, dear, chamois, and birds of prey. There are thriving freshwater fish populations in Switzerland's lakes and rivers. In fact, there are around 40,000 native animal species in Switzerland. A federal law, the Federal Act on the Protection of Nature and Cultural Heritage (NCHA) makes Switzerland responsible for taking care of its native flora and fauna and encouraging the preservation of biodiversity and habitat maintenance. Even so, there are some 72 native species of plants and animals that are considered threatened in Switzerland. The federal agencies also work with governments on the level of the individual cantons.

One part of Switzerland's fight to promote biodiversity and protect threatened species is the fight against invasive plants. Switzerland also tightly controls the import of exotic species. People who want to acquire an exotic plant or animal or who want to bring a foreign species into the country must first obtain permission from the appropriate Swiss regulatory bodies.

The Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) in Switzerland creates what are called red lists that allow measurement of the health of plants and animals. Additionally, Biodiversity Monitoring Switzerland, or BDM also monitors changes in biological diversity. Switzerland is involved in several international efforts to monitor animal and plant diversity, particularly with migratory animals, such as migratory birds. Switzerland has ratified a number of international agreements to these ends as well.

Switzerland signed onto the treaty at the Bern Convention, which was concerned with European wildlife and habitat maintenance, The Bonn Convention to do with preservation of migratory wild animal species, the Rio Convention on Biodiversity, the Ramsar Convention, which is a UNESCO agreement on internationally important wetlands as habitats for water fowl, the CITES (convention) concerning International trade in wild flora and fauna and endangered species.

A particular concern for those responsible for Switzerland's plant and animal life is the impact of climate change on the distribution of both plants and animals. For example, a one degree (centigrade) rise in temperature makes the tree line rise by 100 meters. The problem is, as different vegetations move upward, some of those that depend on the higher altitude conventions will be squeezed out and become extinct. As habitats change, some species will lose habitats altogether.

Even now there are many more plant species on some of the alpine peaks than there were half a century or a century ago. Some species have died out altogether, and experts expect more to do so as the vegetation creeps upward in altitude.

Animals that are under particular danger include the mountain hare and the ptarmigan. As their habitats shrink, the populations become isolated from other populations of their species, which affects breeding ability and genetic diversity.

The rapidity with which climate changes have been noted is a danger itself, because forests take a long time to become reestablished, and they may not be able to respond as quickly as the climate changes. Flightless insects are examples of animals who may not be able to climb to a habitable altitude fast enough to follow as their habitats shrink.

In addition to moving upwards in altitude, species are also moving north. There is fear that native ecosystems are in for drastic changes, and that some species will expand their habitats, while others watch theirs disappear. A large increase in year-round resident birds could push out migratory birds, and climate changes could destroy some of their staging grounds, making it much harder for them to find enough food for their migratory journey.

This is not to say that all is lost in Switzerland. For one thing there are numerous agencies and individuals working to keep Switzerland's amazing range of plants and animals from disappearing. Switzerland still boasts some of the most beautiful and pristine mountain and valley environments on earth. The lakes are thriving with fish, and the mountains are thriving with vegetation. There is no doubt that if you visit Switzerland you will be astounded at the great variety of landforms, weather conditions, and plants and animals that Switzerland contains.

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