Context: Recently a study shows that climate change has dramatically altered the Swiss Alp landscape at a quicker pace than expected.

Key Highlight of the study:

  • Melting glaciers have created more than 1,000 new lakes across the mountains.
  • The inventory of Swiss Glacial lakes showed that almost 1,200 new lakes have formed in formerly glaciated regions of the Swiss Alps since the end of the Little Ice Age around 1850.
  • Around 1,000 of them still exist today, according to the study published by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag).
  • Around 180 lakes have been added in the last decade alone.
  • Glaciers in the Swiss Alps are in steady decline, losing a full 2% of their volume last year alone.
  • And even if the world were to fully implement the 2015 Paris Agreement two-thirds of the Alpine glaciers will likely be lost.

Related facts:

Alps Mountain:

  • The Alps mountain range stretches from: 
    • The north of the Mediterranean Sea near Monaco in southern France into Switzerland, then through northern Italy into southern Germany, and towards Vienna in Austria. 
  • The mountain range then continues downwards through the countries of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro. 
  • The Alps mountain range ends in Albania on the rugged Adriatic Sea coastline.
  • The Alps Mountain range is the fold mountain and was formed millions of years ago during collisions between the Eurasian and the African tectonic plates.
  • Geography:
    • The Alps cover a total area of about 207,000 km2 and have a maximum width of about 250 km at its widest point. 
      • Widest point is situated between Verona in Italy and the Garmisch-Partenkirchen in southern Germany.
    • The Alps is a discontinuous mountain range and comprises numerous peaks and valleys that are of varying heights and depths.
    • The 22.6 km-long Aletsch Glacier located in the Valais canton of Switzerland is the largest glacier in the Alps.
    • The Alps mountain range can be divided into three broad sections: 
      • The Eastern, Central, and Western Alps.
  • Eartern Alps:
    • Located mainly in Austria but also Germany, Italy and Slovenia.
    • It also comprise 
      • The Bavarian Alps, 
      • The Carnic Alps, 
      • The Dinaric Alps,
      • The Dolomite Alps, and 
      • The Julian Alps.
  • Central Alps:
    • It occupy the area between the Great St Bernard and Brenner passes. 
    • It comprises the Bernese and Glarus Alps on the northern side and the Lepontine, Ötztal, Pennine, and the Rhaetian Alps in the southern part.
  • Western Alps:
    • It extends from the Maritime Alps near the Mediterranean coast to the Great St Bernard Pass, straddling the borders of France, Italy and Switzerland. 
    • It comprises of some of highest peak i.e., 
      • The Cottian, Ligurian and the Graian Alps, as well as the Mont Blanc massif (Highest Peak)  and Valle d’Aosta.
      • Mont Blanc sits on the border of France and Italy and rises to an elevation of 4,808 m.
  • Flora and Fauna of the Alps:
    • Mixed mountain forests including oak, beech, pine, poplar, chestnut, and birch trees thrive well in the lower mountain slopes, whereas coniferous forests are found in the higher altitudes.
    • Many plants like crocus, primulas, rhododendron, and edelweiss also thrive well in the Alpine habitats.
    • The notable avian species that are found here include the Golden eagle, peregrine falcon, black grouse, black woodpecker, etc.
  • Economy:
    • Currently, the Alpine region is home to about 14 million people in the eight main Alpine countries and is annually visited by more than 120 million tourists.
    • Crops including fruits and wine grapes are cultivated in the valleys and in the foothills of the Alps. 
    • During the summer months, the flat upland regions provide pastures for the grazing of livestock. 
    • Some of the major economic activities in the Alpine region are tourism, dairy farming, mining of iron ore, and generating hydroelectric power.