This chapter explores snow as a biological medium. Snow coloured red and pink has been described since ancient times, and is caused by so called ‘snow algae’, which have been researched since the 1960s. Snow algae are exposed to high levels of damaging ultraviolet radiation and have evolved mechanisms to counteract is effects. Aspects of their physiology (growth and photosynthesis) are outlined. Recent work has shown that bacteria are functionally active in snow, and molecular analysis is shedding light on the nature of these bacterial communities. Snow has a major impact on the ground that it covers seasonally. Contrary to what one might suppose, considerable biological activity occurs beneath the insulating snow layer in winter. In some parts of the Arctic there is significant aerial deposition of nitrogen on the winter snow pack that provides a pulse of nitrogen to fertilise the tundra on summer melt. These aspects of snow cover impact are examined in detail.
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