Ecological Responses to 52 Years of Experimental Snow Manipulation in High-Alpine Cushionfield, Old Man Range, South-Central New Zealand Academic Article uri icon


  • Periodic monitoring over 52 years have revealed temporal changes in the vegetation and floristic patterns associated with what has been acclaimed to be the world's oldest known experimental snow fence, which is located on an exposed high-alpine cushionfield on the Old Man Range in south-central New Zealand. The induced pattern of intermittent snow-lie has been increased by the fence from the normal ∼140 days to more than 200 days (and up to 140 cm deep), estimated from subsurface soil temperatures, together with periodic observations and measurements of snow depth. Some but not all species associated with natural snowbanks on the range have established in areas of induced snow accumulation. The timing of species establishment was not obviously related to relevant features of the local snowbank species or their distribution on the range, but the abundance of various plant species and their functional traits across zones of snowmelt point to competition and plant productivity being associated with the deepest snow in the lee of the fence. In addition, three of the several measured physical and chemical soil factors (Mg, available PO₄³⁻, and C:N) have differentiated significantly in relation to the vegetation and snow-lie pattern at year 52, although these seem not to be relevant on the basis of the pattern of the same factors in two nearby natural snowbanks on the range.


  • Mark, AF
  • Korsten, AC
  • Guevara, DU
  • Dickinson, KJM
  • Humar-Maegli, T
  • Michel, P
  • Halloy, SRP
  • Lord, JM
  • Venn, SE
  • Morgan, JW
  • Whigham, PA
  • Nielsen, JA

publication date

  • 2015

has subject area