Warm winter, early spring may have environmental repercussions
Alexandra Zissu reports in the Times Union an unseasonably warm and mostly snow-free winter may lead to the premature emergence of tick nymphs, frogs and flowers this spring, as well as toxic algal blooms this summer. “Any particular winter can see warm-ups and strange aberrations of 50 degrees in February for a short period,” said Matthew Schlesinger, chief zoologist at the DEC’s New York natural heritage program. “Populations have evolved with these changes. It’s the long terms patterns we are more concerned about.” While bears emerging early from their winter slumber should be alright with little food to eat, since they stored extra fat last fall, insects out early might not find food yet. Schlesinger says, “Insects that rely on those plants might be timed wrong. Those kinds of mismatches of timing are what we worry about.” And they may also suffer from an inevitable cold snap this spring. And ticks may be out and about already. “They come out whenever it’s above 40 degrees and it’s been above 40 almost every month and almost every week all winter long,” said Richard Ostfeld, distinguished senior scientist at Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook. Jessica Frost, the U.S. science director of BlueGreen Water Technologies, warns all of this is very difficult to predict. “Biology can be incredibly unpredictable,” Frost said. “We need data to make things predictable.” Read more about this story in the Times Union.