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Life zones of central Europe

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Title: Life zones of central Europe  
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Subject: Palearctic ecozone, Montane ecology, Central Europe
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Life zones of central Europe

Floristic regions of Europe

Central Europe contains several life zones, depending on location and elevation.

Geographically, Central Europe lies between the Baltic Sea and the Apennine and Balkan peninsulas. It includes the plains of Germany and Poland; the Alps; and the Carpathian Mountains. The Central European Flora region stretches from Central France to Central Romania and Southern Scandinavia.[1] The lowlands of Central Europe contain the Central European mixed forests ecoregion,[2] while the mountains host the Alps conifer and mixed forests[3] and Carpathian montane conifer forests ecoregions.[4]

An important factor in the local climate and ecology of Central Europe is the elevation: an increase of elevation by 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) causes the average air temperature to drop by 5 °C (41 °F) and decreases the amount of water that can be held by the atmosphere by 30%. This decrease in temperature and increase in rainfall result in altitudinal zonation, where the land can be divided into life zones of similar climate and ecology, depending on elevation.

Life zones

Altitudinal zones of the Alps

The life zones of the Eastern and Central Alps are:[5][6][7][8][9][10]

  • Planar zone, under 300 m (East Alps), under 150 m (Central German hills), agriculture.
  • Foothill zone, 300 – 800 m (East Alps), 150 – 300 m (Central German hills), oak limit (Quercus spp.). European Beech (Fagus sylvatica), Sessile oak (Quercus petraea), Pedunculate oak or English oak (Quercus robur), European or common hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) and small-leaved Lime (Tilia cordata). Grape crop limit (Vitis spp.), around 600 m, Switzerland, North Side, South Slope, estimated 7.5 °C. Crops: maize for feed; sweet maize (Zea mays).
  • Montane zone, 800 – 1,200 m (East Alps), 450 – 650 m (Central German hills), rye (Secale cereale) and wheat (Triticum spp.) crop limit.
  • Mid-montane zone, 1,000 – 1,400 m (East Alps), 650 – 800 m (Central German hills). Limit of the whole year populated areas. Limit of a growing season of more than 100 days.


Location, avg annual precipitation (mm), altitude (amsl) and avg annual temperature (°C):[11]

Approx. coordinates
of the weather station
Precipitation Altitude Temperature
Weissfluhjoch 1,158 mm 2,690 m -3.2 °C
Pilatus 1,842 mm 2,106 m 0.9 °C
Napf 1,355 mm 1,406 m 4.0 °C
Engelberg 1,571 mm 1,035 m 5.4 °C
Buchs-Suhr 1,027 mm 387 m 8.6 °C


  1. ^ Frey, Wolfgang; Lösch, Rainer (2004). "Pflanze und Vegetation in Raum und Zeit". Lehrbuch der Geobotanik. München: Spektrum Akademischer Verlag. 
  2. ^ "Central European mixed forests". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund. 
  3. ^ "Alps conifer and mixed forests". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund. 
  4. ^ "Carpathian montane conifer forests". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund. 
  5. ^  
  6. ^ Mayer, Hannes (1974). Wälder des Ostalpenraumes. Standort, Aufbau und waldbaulichen Bedeutung der wichtigsten Waldgesellschaften in den Ostalpen samt Vorland. Ökologie der Wälder und Landschaften vol. 3. Stuttgart, New York: Gustav Fischer Verlag. p. 344.  
  7. ^ Mayer, Hannes (1984). Wälder Europas. Stuttgart, New York: Gustav Fischer Verlag. p. 691.  
  8. ^ Wittmann, O. (1983). Standortkundliche Landschaftsgliederung von Bayern. Materialien 21. München: Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Landesentwicklung und Umweltfragen. 
  9. ^ Kilian, W.; F. Müller; F. Starlinger (1993). Die forstlichen Wuchsgebiete Österreichs. Eine Naturraumgliederung nach waldökologischen Gesichtspunkten. Wien: Forstliche Bundesversuchsanstalt. p. 53.   )
  10. ^ Härdtle, W.; Ewald, J.; Hölzel, N. (2004). Wälder des Tieflandes und der Mittelgebirge. Ökosysteme Mitteleuropas in geobotanischer Sicht. Stuttgart: Ulmer. p. 257. 
  11. ^ "Klimadiagramme". 
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