A forest test plot, where snow was removed to see the effects of the lack of this insulating blanket. (Image courtesy of Pamela Templer.)

Shorter, warmer winters, less snow. What next? Q&A with biologist Pamela Templer

By Dan Drollette Jr, May 1, 2020


Biologists have traditionally labeled winter the so-called “dormant” season. But a lot is going on at this time—assuming that a good blanket of snow is there to act as an insulator. Unfortunately, decades of data collected at the nation’s experimental forests shows that the winters are getting shorter and warmer, meaning that there will be less snow to protect the microfauna and microflora below. To find out what this could mean for New England’s forests, biologist Pamela Templer of Boston University and her team have been conducting experiments to see what climate change has in store for the future of the forest floor—such as more rapid freeze-and-thaw cycles, less carbon retention by the soil, less forest productivity, more damage to tree roots, and fewer of the region’s iconic sugar maples.

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In this interview with the Bulletin’s Dan Drollette Jr., Templer delves into the decades of evidence for shorter winters, less cold, less snow, and a considerably changed forest landscape—and what the implications could be.

As the coronavirus crisis shows, we need science now more than ever.

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