Recent years have seen renewed interest in the fragile alpine biota. The International Year of Mountains in 2002 and numerous international programs and initiatives have contributed to this. Since nearly half of mankind depends on water supplies originating in mountain catchments, the integrity and functional signi?cance of the upland biota is a key to human welfare and will receive even more attention as water becomes an increasingly limited resource. Intact alpine vegetation,as the safeguard of the water towers of the world, is worth being well understood. This new edition of Alpine Plant Life is an update with over 100 new references,new diagrams, revised and extended chapters (particularly 7, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17) and now also offers a geographic index. My thanks go to the many careful readers of the ?rst edition for their most valuable comments, in parti- lar to Vicente I. Deltoro (Valencia) and Johanna Wagner (Innsbruck). Basel,April 2003 Christian Korner Preface to the ?rst edition One of the largest natural biological experiments, perhaps the only one replicated across all latitudes and all climatic regions,is uplift of the la- scape and exposure of organisms to dramatic climatic gradients over a very short distance, otherwise only seen over thousands ofkilometers of poleward traveling. Generations of plant scientists have been fascinated by these natural test areas,and have explored plant and ecosystem responses to alpine life conditions. Alpine Plant Life is an attempt at a synthesis.