Snow ecology of boreal plants

The effects of snow cover on spatial patterns of vegetation are obvious in arctic and alpine ecosystems, where wind redistributes snow efficiently in a treeless landscape.

Less attention has been paid to how the spatial variation of snow cover affects plants in boreal coniferous forests. In forests, snow accumulates unequally on the forest floor both due to canopy interception and due to large spatial variability in the subcanopy thermal regime.

Our results show that species-specific responses to snow cover are characteristic of not only arctic-alpine plants, but also boreal plants that grow in the field layer of coniferous forests. Overwintering plants are affected by both the thickness of snow and the physical properties of snow (e.g. snow density, ice layers), both of which are expected to change due to climatic warming.

Selected publications:

Saarinen, T., Rasmus, S., Lundell, R., Kauppinen, O.-K. & Hänninen, H. 2016. Photosynthetic and phenological responses of dwarf shrubs to the depth and properties of snow. –Oikos, 125:364-373. DOI:

Rasmus, S., Gustafsson, D., Lundell R. & Saarinen, T. 2016. Observations and snow model simulations of winter energy balance terms within and between different coniferous forests in Southern Boreal Finland. –Hydrology Research 47:201-216. DOI: 10.2166/nh.2015.177

Rasmus, S., Lundell, R. & Saarinen, T. 2011. Interactions between snow, canopy and vegetation in a boreal coniferous forest. –Plant Ecology & Diversity 4:55-65. DOI: