Great Canadian Parks / British Columbia

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The Parks / British Columbia / Glacier National Park

It might seem odd to call Alpine Tundra a ‘life zone’, but even on the seemingly barren ice and rock of the summits, there is life. In fact, the snow beds support a variety of snow insects and algae, which can tint the snow red in summer months.


As you move below 2200 m in elevation there are only a few trees, but a wide variety of hardy wild flowers that put on a brief but brilliant show from late July to early August, carpeting the alpine meadows with dazzling colour.


Further down the mountain the sub-alpine forest takes over. The Engelmann spruce and mountain hemlock create a dense cover for animals in winter, and are draped in the old man's beard lichen which is the caribou's winter staple.


In the valley bottoms, we find groves of old growth cedar and hemlock. Known as the Interior Rainforest, it is the least represented of the four life zones in Glacier National Park, but it holds some of nature's most precious secrets. Although it is located very far from the ocean, it resembles the rainforests of the Pacific Coast. This is due to the milder temperatures of the protected valleys and the extremely high amount of precipitation that falls here when warm air masses from the Pacific are forced to rise over the Columbia Mountains. Along with 500-year-old western red cedars, the forest includes a variety of ferns and lichens, truffles and other fungi, as well as rare species like the Pacific Yew, which can only survive in older forests.


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