Snow in Science, Culture, and Climate

Snow and Living Things

It’s not just people who find both benefits and drawbacks to snow. For plants, animals, and other living things, snow provides the benefits of insulation and shelter from wind and cold, but it can also make it more challenging for plants to grow and presents obstacles to moving around and getting food for animals. 

Humans have dealt with the challenges of snow by creating tools to help travel in snow, remove snow from certain locations, and carry items in snow. Plants and animals that occur in snowy places have to deal with the same conditions that humans do without the benefit of such tools. The living things that inhabit snowy places today have a variety of characteristics that accomplish the same results as do the tools that humans have invented, however.

Over millions of years, living things whose traits helped them to survive in snowy places produced more offspring with similar traits. The process by which the living things best suited to their environments become more prevalent over time is called natural selection. The resulting characteristics, which may be related to a plant or animal’s shape or size, the biological processes that take place within it, or in the case of animals, its behavior, are called adaptations. In snowy climates, plants and animals exhibit a range of adaptations to living with snow.

Select the photos below to learn more about snow and living things.

Snow and Plants

A conifer tree covered with wind-blown on one side
NPS Photo / Diane Renkin (Public Domain)

Snow and Animals

NPS Photo (Public Domain)