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© Yannick Andrea / WWF-Switzerland
A unique heritage
Dynamic ecological processes and a rich cultural heritage are the reasons for the huge variety of habitats found in the Alps. This is the basis for their natural richness.
The Alps are one of the largest and highest mountain ranges in the world, forming an arc of 1200 km in length from Nice to Vienna and covering about 192,000 km².

The mountain range stretches across 8 different countries where about 13 million people are distributed over approximately 6,000 communities. This is the reason for their rich cultural heritage.

Even as one of the most intensively exploited mountain ecosystems in the world, the Alps continue to maintain a high degree of naturalness.
They are a labyrinth of mountain chains and valleys where dynamic natural processes – Foehn storms, avalanches, rock falls, periodic flooding, and harsh winters – continuously re-shape the landscape and are the driving force for biological diversity.
It thus comes as no surprise that the Alps also support a huge variety of habitats: from warm, lush valleys and deep mountain gorges to ice and rock deserts dominating the summit regions.

Their mountainous character sets the Alps apart from the surrounding landscapes and separates the dry evergreen forests of the Mediterranean region from the central European deciduous forests.

Facts and Figures

View of the Matterhorn from the North. February 2008. 
© Inge Vavra & Joanna Schoenenberger

The Alps are 1,200 km in length and cover an area of about 192,000 km2.

The highest mountain in the Alps is Mont Blanc (4,810 m) on the Italian-French border.

About 2% of the total area of the Alps is covered by ice. 

The largest glacier in the Alps - the Aletsch Glacier in the Bernese Alps - is 23 km long, reaching depths of up to 900 m.

The Rhine, Rhone, and Po rivers all originate in the Alps.  

Natural Landscape

Meager meadow habitat, Grisons © WWF
The Alps are one of the regions with the richest flora and fauna in Europe, second only to the Mediterranean.


Cultural Landscape

Cutting hay in the buffer zone of the Hohe Tauern National Park in the Austrian Alps. Apriach, Austria © WWF
Human presence in the Alps dates back to Neolithic times and has added to the scale of biological diversity across the region.

Infographic for the European Alps.
© Infographic for the European Alps. © WWF European Alpine Programme

The Alps are 1,200 km long and reach up to just over 4,800 m in height.