I like to compare mountains with islands. Islands of undisturbed nature in a wild and dangerous ocean of human influence; the lowlands. Wave after wave of human influences crashes on the slopes of the island-mountain, trying to erode the natural richness to wipe it out forever.
How long the natural richness of the mountains will survive this storm, depends on two main factors: the power of the symbolic waves and the resistance of the mountains against the ‘erosion’. The size of the second one, the resistance, remains for now largely unresolved. The pattern of number one is clearer: the wave power is growing and increasing its pressure on the mountains.
The island of Tenerife nicely shows how that difference between low- and highlands looks in all mountain regions. The mountain area itself is a beautiful, deserted and desolate moon landscape, while the lowlands are crowded with a growing amount of tourists. The hotels and apartments cover a whole coastline and claim a reasonable amount of space. The segregation is very distinct here, as can be seen from the ocean: a coastline with lines of hotels until all of a sudden the mountains stop the expansion.
The presence of a large amount of people in the lowlands should however not necessarily be a problem for the mountain nature, it only becomes one when the extent of human disturbance crawls higher and higher in the mountains. But that is what is happening the last centuries, often unnoticed or even unwanted by the culprits.
On Tenerife, the difference between highlands and lowlands is extraordinary large, because of the dominance of the tourists and the low percentage of industry and local communities. Most of the tourists never leave the hotel, leaving the mountains for what they are. It is however debatable if this complete ignorance is good or bad for the mountain nature.