Lack of snow isn't bad thing for health of area's wetlands
Very little snowfall impacts a lot of things in Minnesota. It means owning a snowmobile is like possessing a very expensive - but useless - painting. I can be stared at, but has little value. It hurts tourism in the area, like not having a Winter...
Very little snowfall impacts a lot of things in Minnesota.
It means owning a snowmobile is like possessing a very expensive - but useless - painting. I can be stared at, but has little value.
It hurts tourism in the area, like not having a Winterfest ice castle in Spicer.
For our wetlands and wildlife habitat, the impact is mixed, however. What first comes to mind is that the lack of snow would hurt wetlands in the early spring, when melting snow feeds the temporary water bodies and draws waterfowl to the area.
"It's not necessarily true that it's not good. There's pluses and minuses," said Scott Glup, project manager at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's Litchfield Wetlands Management District.
He said that ducks will feel the short-term impact of fewer small, shallow wetlands. There would be a smaller number of them than normal.
"Ducks are territorial," he added. "If you have a 10-acre wetland, you will probably only have a couple of pairs. If you have 10, one-acre wetlands, you could have 10 pairs."
But for the long-term, Glup said the smaller wetlands get a chance to regenerate. Over wet periods of time, the shallow basins can become tainted with unwanted plant species that don't improve the overall quality. Being dry allows for the natural process of killing off these plants and hopefully allowing native species to grow in their place.
In larger wetlands, drier times allow for the drawdown of water levels. In basins that contain fish, unwanted species like carp and other rough fish can quickly overpower the ecosystem and ruin the water quality by uprooting aquatic vegetation.
The lower water levels allow for a freeze-over and winterkill, which allows the wetland to start over from scratch once it fills again.
But even getting lower water levels has been a problem. As the smaller wetlands disappear and more land is converted to farming, runoff from the fields keeps larger wetlands full. Without the ability to drain the wetland, proper regeneration cannot occur.
"This fall, we pulled the water structure control on a WMA a few miles from the office," Glup said. "But water is still flowing into it and there's a bit of water a few inches wide and six inches deep and there is carp in there.
"When the basin dries out, you provide a lot more nutrients and plant growth. A lot of our wetlands don't cycle as they used to because of all the draining."
Even if this area was to get a couple of big, heavy snowfalls, Glup said it probably wouldn't have a major effect this spring.
"I don't see it changing, because the ground went into the winter dry; even if we get some nice, big snows," he said. "We needed a good, hard seal so the runoff doesn't seep into the ground."