Ep. 15 - The Subnivean Zone - A Winter UNDER-land

Winter is often perceived as a time of dormancy and inactivity, but underneath the snow, in the subnivean zone, a complex and fascinating world of plant and animal interactions exists. Weasels hunt through snow-roofed tunnels, rodents and other animals graze on grasses, bark, and seeds, and occasionally the taloned feet of an owl punch through the roof, searching for a meal. In this episode, Steve and Bill pull back the snowy curtain, sharing recent research into what’s happening in the subnivean zone and the impacts of climate change on this intriguing and unseen winter world. This episode was recorded in the Shale Creek section of Chestnut Ridge Park, located in Orchard Park, NY. 

Photo: A Red Fox dives into the snow after its keen ears detect a rodent (or some other small mammal) moving about in the subnivean zone. Credit: catersnews / https://www.catersnews.com/stories/amazing/outfoxed-fox-gets-wedged-in-snow-after-narrowly-missing-prey/

Works Cited:

Campbell, J. L., M. J. Mitchell, P. M. Groffman, L. M. Christenson and J. P. Hardy (2005). "Winter in northeastern North America: a critical period for ecological processes." Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3(6): 314-322.

Johnson, C., Albrecht, G., Ketterings, Q., Beckman, J., & Stockin, K. (2005). Nitrogen basics–the nitrogen cycle. Agronomy Fact Series. Fact Sheet, 2.

Johnson, C., G. Albrecht, Q. Ketterings, J. Beckman and K. Stockin (2005). "Nitrogen basics–the nitrogen cycle." Agronomy Fact Series. Fact Sheet 2.

Pauli, J. N., B. Zuckerberg, J. P. Whiteman and W. Porter (2013). "The subnivium: a deteriorating seasonal refugium." Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11(5): 260-267.

Petty, S. K., B. Zuckerberg and J. N. Pauli (2015). "Winter conditions and land cover structure the subnivium, a seasonal refuge beneath the snow." PloS one 10(5): e0127613.

Schaberg, P. G. and D. H. DeHayes (2000). Physiological and environmental causes of freezing injury in red spruce. Responses of Northern US Forests to Environmental Change, Springer: 181-227.

Sherburne, Stuart S. "Squirrel middens influence marten (Martes americana) use of subnivean access points." American Midland Naturalist (1993): 204-207.

Soininen, Eeva M., et al. "Under the snow: a new camera trap opens the white box of subnivean ecology." Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation 1.1 (2015): 29-38.

Williams, Caroline M., Hugh AL Henry, and Brent J. Sinclair. "Cold truths: how winter drives responses of terrestrial organisms to climate change."Biological Reviews 90.1 (2015): 214-235.

Zielinski, William J. "When prey provide more than food: mammalian predators appropriating the refugia of their prey." Mammal Research 60.4 (2015): 285-292.