LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - With spring right around the corner, the National Weather Service in La Crosse is releasing a series of spring flood outlooks.
We know flooding can be detrimental to us, but often we forget about how it can affect wildlife in the Upper Mississippi.
Persistent wet conditions, deep snow pack and already wet soils have local hydrologists on high alert. Hydrologist for the NWS in La Crosse John Wetenkamp says that we could see a similar spring flood as years past. "What we are seeing is an above-normal risk for spring flooding," said Wetenkamp.
One of the main contributing factors is what kind of snow melt we will see in the coming months.
"Just because we don't have a deep snowpack here locally doesn't mean we won't experience flooding, we have to look farther upstream to the headwaters of the Mississippi River," said Wetenkamp.
Local ecosystems can handle flooding, but not like we have seen in recent years.
La Crosse District Manager of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge Tim Miller says that it's proving detrimental for some species. "Most of the wildlife that use the wildlife refuge are designed to deal with flooding. However, what we've had in the last few years of high water for a long period of time like this last year, can be detrimental to some of the habitats that they use," said Miller.
Habitats like the floodplain forest have shown signs of weakness. This forest consists of tree species, like the Swamp White Oak.
"We're starting to see some mortality in some of those forest species and we're also seeing that the little seedlings from those trees can't survive," said Miller.
If they can't survive, it can alter other life forms in the ecosystem.
"The native tree species around here produce tons and tons of insects and insects are the most important thing for a lot of our birds coming through, especially when they're getting ready to nest because they need lots and lots of protein and calcium to make eggs," said Miller.
It isn't all negative. Some species can adapt and actually thrive with higher water levels.
"There are a lot of species that can adapt and do well with it. I can think of beavers being one of them. You think about their habitat, there's a lot more food resources out there that they can swim to," said Miller.
Minor flooding is always possible in the spring, and that is why both organizations will continue to keep a close eye on the river and adapt accordingly.