How does aquatic life survive a frozen lake? Water is weird.
All this bitter cold makes for icy conditions that are tough for a lot of us to deal with. But it’s important for wildlife.
TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The bone-chilling cold is, of course, bone-chilling for humans and everything that lives above the ice. But it’s actually necessary for aquatic life, and it gets them through the winter.
“Luckily, water is unusual,” says Amanda Domalski, an Outdoor Skills Interpreter for Metroparks Toledo. “Its solid form is less dense than its liquid form. Most substances, the solids are denser than their liquid form, so if ice was like most other things when water freezes, the ice would sink to the bottom of the pond.”
And that would end all life in streams, ponds, and rivers every winter.
“It would pile up, and essentially the pond would freeze from the bottom up, crushing all the aquatic plants that live there,” she says.
So, because that’s not how water chemically behaves, fish, frogs and aquatic plants will live to see the spring. Not only because ice floats, though. It also shelters the world below.
Domalski says, “If you’re in liquid water, it’s guaranteed it’s going to be above 32 F, whereas critters who choose to overwinter on land, you can have massive temperature swings where it’s going down to -5 F or even below that.”
But too much ice can be a problem: “If you get too thick of ice, you can get decreased oxygen in the water below.”
That means some wildlife could die. Meanwhile, on top of the ice, people can find plenty of fun – as long as the ice is thick enough. “We do post when the ice is unsafe, so please watch the “Danger, Stay Off Ice” signs, and please do follow that, it can be difficult for a casual observer to tell if the ice is safe, so it’s always important to heed those warnings.”
And the word from Metroparks Toledo: ice is over 6″ thick on the lakes at Oak Openings and Pearson Park, and skating is allowed.
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