08 May 2013:
Declining Snow Cover Imperils
Plant and Animal Species, Study Says
Declining winter and spring snow cover in parts of the Northern Hemisphere poses a growing threat to the plant and animals species that depend on the snow to survive harsh winters
, a new study says. Writing in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
, a team of scientists reports that
shorter snow seasons and decreased snow depths are altering the so-called subnivium, a seasonal microenvironment beneath the snow that provides refuge for a variety of life forms, from microbes to bears. In the last four decades, snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has declined by as much as 3.2 million square kilometers during the months of March and April. Spring melting has accelerated by nearly two weeks, and the period of maximum snow cover has shifted from February to January, the scientists say. If exposed to temperature fluctuations as a result of disappearing snow, reptiles and amphibians could emerge from winter torpor prematurely, and plant species would be subject to harmful freeze-thaw cycles. “Snow cover is becoming shorter, thinner and less predictable,” said Benjamin Zuckerberg, a professor of forest and wildlife ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and one of the co-authors. “We’re seeing a trend. The subnivium is in retreat.”
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
Yale Environment 360
articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia
, the online educational network. Visit the site.
Business & Innovation
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Antarctica and the Arctic
Central & South America
Photographer Robert Wintner documents the exquisite beauty and biodiversity of Cuba’s unspoiled coral reefs. View the gallery.
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile
The Warriors of Qiugang
, a Yale Environment 360
video, chronicles a Chinese village’s fight against a polluting chemical plant. It was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
Watch the video.
Top Image: aerial view of Iceland
. © Google & TerraMetrics.
A three-part series Tainted Harvest
looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup. Read the series.