In Franee, drifting snow is generally controlled using artificial snow fences. Living snow fences are not a new concept but they have only been used on a limited scale. Research directly related to natural plant barriers is limited. We therefore decided to study the behaviour of species that would survive and grow satisfactorily in the French Alps.
In the first experiment, we compared the storage capacity of several different kinds of living fences consisting of pruned spruces, unpruned spruces and sorbs.
Field observations during the winter of 1995-96 proved that deciduous trees such as sorbs are effective, and that pruning the lower 50 cm is not effective at the end of the season because of the weight of snow on low branches.
However, the use of natural plant barriers has disadvantages: a living snow fence takes time to reach an effective height and is difficult to establish on windy sites at a high altitude. This is a real problem. Therefore, in a second experiment, we studied the death rate of larches planted behind a fence. We noticed that the snow fence had several effects, snow accumulation (until the planted trees grew up) and protection of the planted trees.