Earlier, I was so positive about the effects of snow on my little plants trying to survive the colds of winter. How the white blanket would protect them against the unbearable frost outside.
The benefits from this free winter protection however seem to be a little limited in my experimental set-ups. Those plants that use the strong positive effects of disturbance to colonise new systems might face some microclimatic problems that do not exist in the established vegetation.
It should already have been clear from my earlier posts that the microclimate within disturbed gaps is totally different from elsewhere, but the pictures I managed to take last week show exactly what that means in reality.
The protective snow blanket disappeared much faster within the gaps than next to it, an observation with some major implications: open environments might be more vulnerable to freezing, but they will also benefit from a longer growing season. Better keep those ideas in mind whenever I think about disturbance in the future!
Little note: these striking differences only occur when snow layers are shallow, off course. In the subarctic, where the biggest part of my research is located, the snowy blanket will most of the time cover everything, regardless of the foundation, wiping out most of the differences.