Study shows less snowpack will harm ecosystem

Apr 15, 2014

(Phys.org) —A new study by CAS Professor of Biology Pamela Templer shows that milder winters can have a negative impact both on trees and on the water quality of nearby aquatic ecosystems, far into the warm growing season.

In a paper in the journal Global Change Biology, Templer and her co-authors show that soil freezing due to diminishing snowpack damages the roots of sugar maple trees and limits their ability to absorb essential nitrogen and other nutrients in the spring. This leads to greater runoff of nitrogen into ground water and nearby streams, which could deteriorate and trigger widespread harmful consequences to humans and the environment.

"Most people think that climate change means hot, sweltering summer months, but it affects the winter as well," said Templer, currently on fellowship at Harvard University, noting that has been shrinking over the past 50 years due to climate change and is likely to continue diminishing over time.

Templer and her colleagues discovered that a thick layer of snow acts as an insulating blanket. When snowpack was shoveled off sections of New Hampshire's Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest to simulate the effects of a warm winter, the soil was much colder—as much as 10 degrees less—than when it was when covered with deep snow. This means the ground could be frozen solid longer into the spring.

Templer is following up her research with a new National Science Foundation funded project that uses warming cables in the ground to determine the combined effects of and summer on the trees.

Explore further: Permafrost thaw exacerbates climate change

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Indirect effects of climate change could alter landscapes

Nov 16, 2012

Studies of a northern hardwood forest in New England point to unexpected ecological trends resulting from documented changes in the climate over 50 years. Some of the changes now taking place can be expected to alter the ...

Mild winter triggers early maple sugar season

Feb 23, 2012

Lighter than normal snow accumulation, warmer than normal temperatures earlier in the season and an earlier than normal start of the maple syrup season are making some weather watchers wonder if there is a new “normal.”

Permafrost thaw exacerbates climate change

Mar 21, 2014

The climate is warming in the arctic at twice the rate of the rest of the globe creating a longer growing season and increased plant growth, which captures atmospheric carbon, and thawing permafrost, which ...

Experiment is first to simulate warming of Arctic permafrost

Dec 05, 2013

Although vegetation growth in the Arctic is boosted by global warming, it's not enough to offset the carbon released by the thawing of the permafrost beneath the surface, University of Florida researchers have found in the ...

Recommended for you

Rio's Olympic golf course in legal bunker

Sep 18, 2014

The return of golf to the Olympics after what will be 112 years by the time Rio hosts South America's first Games in 2016 comes amid accusations environmental laws were got round to build the facility in ...

User comments : 0