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UW-Madison study shows less snow cover putting plants, frogs at risk

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Wisconsin has been getting less snow cover in recent winters, and a UW-Madison study shows that it might be putting certain plants and frogs at risk.

The research indicates that maximum snow depths have been moved back from January to February in the Snow Belt.

Also, the region’s total snow cover since 1970 has dropped by 7 percent during March and 11 percent during April through 2010.

Assistant ecology professor Jonathan Pauli says a number of organisms spend their winters in a base layer between snow and the heat-generating soil. They include beetles and ticks, plus fungi that help invigorate the soil by springtime.

Pauli said wood frogs are very susceptible to changing winters. If they freeze too much, they lose their protection abilities – and if it’s too warm, their energy gets sapped by dealing with temperature cycles.

UW expert Benjamin Zuckerberg says the species might become more stressed in the future, because of Wisconsin’s location at the south end of the Snow Belt. The scientists blame climate change.

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