Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 63, Issue 2, pp 150–167 | Cite as

The nutrient cycle through snow and ice, a review

  • Michael Kuhn


This paper reviews the merging of the nutrient cycle with the water cycle in the seasonal alpine snow cover, emphasizing physical processes at the snowpack and snow grain scale. Nutrients are incorporated into snowflakes growing in the atmosphere, they are part of the dry deposition from the atmosphere to the snowpack and they reach the snow as plant litter. The physical processes of the accumulation of nutrients and their redistribution in and on the snow grains and in the pore space of the snow matrix are described.¶The first flush of meltwater that reaches the soil carries a solution of nutrients and acids in a concentration several times higher than bulk values, an effect that increases with the age of the snow and the number of melt/freeze cycles and is more pronounced for sulfate than for chloride. Species that are attached to insoluble particles will be concentrated near the snow surface and will display peak concentrations in the final fraction of meltwater.

Key words: Nutrient cycle, snow, melt water, fractionation. 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Kuhn
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Meteorologie und Geophysik, Universität Innsbruck, Innrain 52, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria, e-mail:

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