Integrating snow science and wildlife ecology in Arctic-boreal North America

Natalie T. Boelman, Glen E. Liston, Eliezer Gurarie, Arjan J.H. Meddens, Peter J. Mahoney, Peter B. Kirchner, Gil Bohrer, Todd J. Brinkman, Chris L. Cosgrove, Jan U.H. Eitel, Mark Hebblewhite, John S. Kimball, Scott Lapoint, Anne W. Nolin, Stine Højlund Pedersen, Laura R. Prugh, Adele K. Reinking, Lee A. Vierling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Snow covers Arctic and boreal regions (ABRs) for approximately 9 months of the year, thus snowscapes dominate the form and function of tundra and boreal ecosystems. In recent decades, Arctic warming has changed the snowcover's spatial extent and distribution, as well as its seasonal timing and duration, while also altering the physical characteristics of the snowpack. Understanding the little studied effects of changing snowscapes on its wildlife communities is critical. The goal of this paper is to demonstrate the urgent need for, and suggest an approach for developing, an improved suite of temporally evolving, spatially distributed snow products to help understand how dynamics in snowscape properties impact wildlife, with a specific focus on Alaska and northwestern Canada. Via consideration of existing knowledge of wildlife-snow interactions, currently available snow products for focus region, and results of three case studies, we conclude that improving snow science in the ABR will be best achieved by focusing efforts on developing data-model fusion approaches to produce fit-for-purpose snow products that include, but are not limited to, wildlife ecology. The relative wealth of coordinated in situ measurements, airborne and satellite remote sensing data, and modeling tools being collected and developed as part of NASA's Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment and SnowEx campaigns, for example, provide a data rich environment for developing and testing new remote sensing algorithms and retrievals of snowscape properties.

Original languageEnglish
Article number010401
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 8 2019


  • ABoVE
  • Arctic boreal vulnerability experiment
  • Dall sheep
  • caribou
  • polar bear
  • remote sensing
  • snow


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