Southern Alps, New Zealand
In this May 2018 image, PROBA-V glanced at the snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps, stretching over 500 km along New-Zealand’s South Island. With half a million tourists visiting the 23 peaks over 3000 m and impressive glaciers every year, the many hydropower stations built since the 1930s and the supply of freshwater, the economic value is evident. Ecologically, the mountains are home to 550 endemic species of plants above the treeline, the colourful kea and the elusive rock wren, but also five national parks that are part of a continuous tract of protected lands along the entire length of the island. Culturally, the high peaks are places of awe and spiritual presence for Māori tribes and an inspiration to photographers, painters and authors. Remembering this importance and the vulnerability of mountains in the world, is precisely what the United Nations’ International Mountain Day (11 December) is all about.