Wind blows along unseen, but not unfelt. Winds are everywhere and serve especially in the mountains as an omnipresent companion. I tried to catch the impressiveness of this natural force in pictures to help imagining what mountain plants have to face on a daily base.
Strong and cold winds are the main forces that shape the harsh climate in the mountains. They are so important and impossible to ignore on high elevations that we expect them to be one of the main limiting factors for the establishment of plants in mountains. Our studied species in the experiment also have to deal with this major challenge, especially there where we removed the blanket of covering vegetation.
Just imagine, the bare soil on a mountain slope, exposed to cold winds that bring biting frost all year long. Uncovered and unprotected plants have a hard task defying these circumstances. However, under the cover of the established vegetation reigns a totally different climate, protected against the gusting wind-power, and probably much safer for seedlings.
I never experienced such winds as in the Andes. There, winds were so strong they even became visible. I was especially impressed by the rainbow tornado’s, when strong winds blew over the surface of a lake to create a cloud of splashing water running fast and spinning around itself. With the right solar angle, these tiny tornado’s resulted in splendid and colorful images.
The summer could have been really warm here, if it was not for the winds bringing down the temperature with several degrees. It is this significant wind-driven decrease in temperature that makes the area perfectly suited for our research at the edge of a plant’s growing abilities.