Winter is at it’s best and nature unveils an immaculate snow garment, and all living creatures find themselves under it’s spell.
The winter landscape can appear essentially barren of wildlife, but a surprising form of life thrives within and beneath the snow. Snow changes everything. Winter’s first covered landscape seems a different place than the world just a few hours earlier—softer, quieter, held more still. Birds and animals become actors of an amazing show in which they demonstrate amazing capabilities of adapting to a harsh life condition, resisting cold, wind and snow. Their resistance and way of finding food is amazing.
Snow does not affect only the way the world looks, it also alters the life of creatures. Winter temperatures can go as low as -80° C and under the snow temperature rarely goes under -7° C making life easier for survival and why not, for some creatures, a little playground. A lot of birds take advantage of this fact and some of them dig horizontal galleries in which they sleep during the night or hide from predators.
Under the snow our furry friends live a normal life. They do not waste a minute, all they do is run around in search for food. You might ask yourself how do they manage to keep a constant body temperature. well the fur is one thing, but they also have a fast metabolism, like a built-in oven that is fueled by lots and lots of food, almost the equivalent of their body weight.
Wherever is water, we find life: in ice ( microbes can live inside solid ice crystals deep in ice-sheets), on ice ( during summer glacier surfaces get a lot of sunlight and direct contact with the atmosphere making life easy), and under ice ( organic carbon found under the ice can be metabolized by microbes to form methane). It is said moss plants can survive for centuries underneath glaciers.
Researchers have found that living bacteria which gets whipped up into the sky may be the trigger that starts the rain and snow. A large variety of bacteria and even fungi and algae persist in the clouds and can be used as rain starters. Microorganisms were growing and holding on to the nitrogen, not just from the snow cover but also the one that was in the soil before snow started to fall. Fewer smaller microbe colonies means less carbon respired into the atmosphere—which would seem like a boom for the climate except that it has another serious repercussion.
We see snow as a transformative element, whitening our vision. But beneath its still surface, these tiniest life-forms continue to have a prosperous and joyful life with games and secret winter feasts. Their tiny subnivean lives and deaths alter the composition of our atmosphere—and may affect the entire planet’s health.