Beaver Lake Nature Center

 

Just like Main Street and University Avenue, it seems like very state has a “Beaver Lake”. There’s Beaver Lake Arkansas, named after homesteader Wilson Beaver. There’s also Beaver Lake Wisconsin, Beaver Lake Illinois, and Beaver Lake New York. These photos are from Beaver Lake Nature Center in New York. Although beavers do roam this 661-acre reserve, the lake was named for its animal-like shape.

sunset over lake

Standing at the lookout point I could see animal tracks crossing the ice in different directions. One very even and straight track was likely from a rabbit or squirrel. Another mysterious set of paw prints meandered across the snow directly in front of me. Coyotes or foxes had been here too.

Eerie silence filled the nature preserve on the chilly afternoon I explored with my family. Downy woodpeckers, mourning doves, black capped chickadees, red and grey squirrels, and a chipmunk were all hanging out around bird feeders at the visitor’s center. A hundred yards away, the nature trails were strikingly silent and devoid of animal life.

trail

Land-atmosphere interactions over boreal forests are muted in the winter months. Productivity declines without the high rates of photosynthesis one might see during the growing season. Days get shorter, air temperatures get colder, and the sun is less direct. Shallow ponds and streams freeze. Nevertheless, trees press on.

Winter eddy fluxes can be difficult to measure if equipment is solar powered. Frequent maintenance is necessary to recover from power failures and bad weather. But what would happen in a warmer climate? One study published in Global Change Biology explained the impact of permafrost thaw on boreal forest-wetlands.

beaver lake sunset

Permafrost thaw will make once-frozen carbon stocks available for decomposition, leading to more CO2 emissions. Ecosystem respiration (respiration from plants and heterotrophic microorganisms) could increase due to warmer soil. Gross primary productivity (carbon fixed from photosynthesis) could increase because of high nutrient and soil moisture availability and warmer soil and air temperatures. Land net CO2 sink in forests is expected to increase as well, but there may be a limit with warmer climate. Variability in ecosystem respiration and gross primary productivity are site-specific. Some ecosystems have light limitations while others are more reliant on air temperature. Water table levels and time of year are factors as well.

frozen pond

Beaver lake freezes on the surface in winter, but fish still swim far below. Terrestrial frogs will hibernate in the mud and leaves, but other animals tough out the season. Rabbits slow their metabolic rate by eating and drinking less. They stay incredibly still, resting among the trees and brush to conserve energy. Coyotes and foxes continue to live above ground during winter. Weasels are the strangest of the woodland creatures. They capture and eat mice or rats that burrow underground, then steal the other animal’s home for themselves.

Have you done any winter exploring? Or do you prefer to conserve your energy? Share your story in the comments! Sincerely, Jess.

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