Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 727–745 | Cite as

The influence of seasonal snow on soil thermal and water dynamics under different vegetation covers in a permafrost region

  • Juan ChangEmail author
  • Gen-xu Wang
  • Yong-heng Gao
  • Yi-bo Wang


Seasonal snow is one of the most important influences on the development and distribution of permafrost and the hydrothermal regime in surface soil. Alpine meadow, which constitutes the main land type in permafrost regions of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, was selected to study the influence of seasonal snow on the temperature and moisture in active soil layers under different vegetation coverage. Monitoring sites for soil moisture and temperature were constructed to observe the hydrothermal processes in active soil layers under different vegetation cover with seasonal snow cover variation for three years from 2010 to 2012. Differences in soil temperature and moisture in areas of diverse vegetation coverage with varying levels of snow cover were analyzed using active soil layer water and temperature indices. The results indicated that snow cover greatly influenced the hydrothermal dynamics of the active soil layer in alpine meadows. In the snow manipulation experiment with a snow depth greater than 15 cm, the snow cover postponed both the freeze-fall and thawrise onset times of soil temperature and moisture in alpine LC (lower vegetation coverage) meadows and of soil moisture in alpine HC (higher vegetation coverage) meadows; however, the opposite response occurred for soil temperatures of alpine HC meadows, where the entire melting period was extended by advancing the thaw-rise and delaying the freeze-fall onset time of the soil temperature. Snow cover resulted in a decreased amplitude and rate of variation in soil temperature, for both alpine HC meadows and alpine LC meadows, whereas the distinct influence of snow cover on the amplitude and rate of soil moisture variation occurred at different soil layers with different vegetation coverages. Snow cover increased the soil moisture of alpine grasslands during thawing periods. The results confirmed that the annual hydrothermal dynamics of active layers in permafrost were subject to the synergistic actions of both snow cover and vegetation coverage.


Permafrost Snow cover Vegetation cover Active soil layer Hydrothermal dynamics Synergistic action 


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan Chang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gen-xu Wang
    • 2
  • Yong-heng Gao
    • 2
  • Yi-bo Wang
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Earth and Environmental SciencesLanzhou UniversityLanhouChina
  2. 2.Institute of Mountain Hazards and EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesChengduChina

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