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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 high 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.

Southern Alps

© ESA-BELSPO 2018, produced by VITO
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Discover more about our planet with the Earth from Space video programme. Join ESA every Friday at 10:00 CEST for an 800 km-high tour with spectacular images from Earth-observing satellites.

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The Earth Watching project is an ESA/ESRIN service to help local authorities and to promote the benefits of remote sensing data during emergencies, sending images and articles to newspapers, magazines and TV stations.

The Earth Watching website features not only imagery of natural disasters, but also promotes various satellite remote sensing applications through images and articles. Some examples are shown in the special events part of the website.

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