Free online course on the principles of alpine plant ecology and treeline ecology developed by ALPECOLe - e-learning course in alpine ecology, Institute of Botany (Section Plant Ecology), University of Basel and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). This course also gives an insight into the mountain climate key characteristics.
1. Visit the Alpine: This lesson allows the user to visit a number of alpine environments on a virtual global field trip. Focus: morphological similarities and the re-occurences of certain genera and families of plants.
2. Dynamic mountain climate: This lesson demonstrates how relief, exposure and type of ground cover modify the actual climatic conditions. Users will also learn some basic rules and techniques of how to obtain climatic data.
3. Why treelines? This lecture explains the biological, i.e. the physiological and life-form related, causes of this most prominent vegetation boundary. Examples from various parts of the world will highlight both the global commonness and local peculiarities of this phenomenon.
4. Plants and climatic stress: This lesson demonstrates how alpine plants cope with thermal extremes (low and high temperatures), UV-B radiation, long lasting snow cover and mechanical impacts (unstable substrate) as the most important factors.
5. Alpine plants and water: After a short introduction to principles of the ecosystem water balance, the alpine plants' moisture availability will be illustrated in this lesson.
6. Alpine plant nutrition: This lesson discusses (after an insight in growth simulations) aspects of litter decomposition, nutrient uptake, the role of legumes and nutrient consumption strategies.
7. Alpine plant's carbon relation and growth: Key aspects of plant primary production at high elevation will be explained.
8. Atmospheric influences: This teaching unit will discuss potential effects of the physical and chemical changes imposed on alpine vegetation by global change.
9. Sex at high altitudes: plant reproduction. Case studies of reproduction in alpine habitats and alpine species will demonstrate what is similar and what is different in the sexual life of plants at high altitudes.
10. Clonal growth and longevity in alpine plants: In this lesson, the complex life cycle of clonal pioneer species will be used to illustrate the diversity of clonal growth.