ambience: River, footsteps walking in snow
At high elevations you can sometimes find banks of snow – even in the summer. These snow banks are home to a variety of organisms and play a vital role in their local ecosystem. Iâ€™m Jim Metzner and this the Pulse of the Planet.
â€œA very important part of the snow community are fungi and bacteria.”
Ron Hoham is a professor of biology at Colgate University in upstate New York. He says the microscopic plants known as algae are part of the community of organisms that inhabit a snowbank.
“The algae may contribute nutrients to the growth of bacteria and the fungi. And we have organisms that break down the debris, such as nematodes and waterbears. There’s really quite a variety of organisms that are found in snow when water fields are active.”
Snow banks are a case study in the interdependence of organisms in n ecosystem.
“The snow community is really a food chain involving several different kinds of organisms, the algae are what we called the â€œprimary producersâ€, theyâ€™re the ones that make the food from photosynthesis using sunlight.â€
In the spring and summer when snow banks melt and rivers risethatâ€™s when the snow bank food web is at its peak, with algae – the primary producers,â€ being consumed by protozoa and other microorganisms.
“The algae and some of these consumers may be themselves consumed by larger forms such as insects called “Springtailsâ€ that can eat the algae directly, or ice worms they can eat the algae directly. These ice worms may be picked off the snow by birds and the insects may also be eaten by spiders and the insects and spiders can be eaten by rodents such as mice and voles or shrews, which are also tunneling through snow. And they themselves could be consumed by fox, or coyotes or larger forms of birds like owls.”
Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.