Snow cover and predicting alpine plant community diversity

Quantifying relationships between snow cover duration and plant community properties remains an important challenge in alpine ecology, especially in the context of climate change.

Snow cover in the Alps

Carlson et al. utilize Landsat imagery to model snow cover dynamics and to estimate energy availability over the course of five growing seasons in a high-elevation watershed in the French Alps, and compare the explanatory power of environmental variables estimated with and without snow cover. They find that predictions of spatial variability in the functional and taxonomic diversity of plant communities improve when high-resolution data on snow cover duration are taken into account, and they conclude that studies seeking to predict the response of alpine plant communities to climate change need to consider shifts in both temperature and nival regimes.