The snow desert
The realm of everlasting snow
On mountain peaks higher than about 3200m to 3300m altitude, but on north-facing slopes also at lower levels, the snow that falls during the course of the year accumulates, thereby giving rise to the formation of glaciers. The snow desert, which is defined as an area permanently covered by snow, is an ecosystem particularly hostile to any form of life, owing to the difficult environmental conditions and the dynamics of the glacier ice. In this extreme environment, phanerogams, i.e. superior forms of plants that bear flowers, are unable to grow. Yet, on the upper parts of the glacier, some organisms can survive. Some forms of life are, in fact, able to develop and reproduce on the masses of snow that form on the melting surface of glaciers, due to the sun’s irradiation. These are microscopic red algae that live in the narrow layer of water, which forms on the surface of the snow during the summer.