The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

May 8, 2013

Diminishing snow cover is endangering fragile ecosystem, study finds

(Continued)

If it’s too warm, the frog is forced to go through cycles of warming and cooling. That saps their energy, he said.

The loss of snow — or its growing variability — means less protection from the elements, especially in areas such Wisconsin, said Benjamin Zuckerberg, a climate specialist in wildlife ecology at the UW.

That’s because Wisconsin lies at the southern edge of the Snow Belt, so species here “may become more stressed in the future,” he said.

The researchers said that the last two winters are prime examples of sharply contrasting conditions that Wisconsin winters are going through.

The winter of 2011 to 2012 “was more like Missouri or Iowa — we really didn’t have much snow that stayed on the ground,” Pauli said.

This past winter is another story, with heavy, moist snow, much of it coming at the end of the season. February-like conditions are still present in the far north.

Exactly how all of these plants and animals are now faring in the winter is unclear, because research to date hasn’t looked into the changes going on under the snow.

“It’s a challenge to work underneath snow in the winter,” Pauli said.

———

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