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Nature Takes the Fast Track in Norwalk

NORWALK, Conn. — If it doesn’t rain soon, the many plants and animals that have made early appearances could face hard times this summer, say experts in Norwalk and Wilton.

Temperatures nationwide have averaged about 6 degrees above normal this year, and March set a record with an average temperature of 51.1 degrees, or 8.6 degrees above normal, according to a climate overview by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration . The study excludes Alaska and Hawaii.

“It’s looking like we’re a week-and-a-half to two weeks ahead of schedule,” Henryk Teraszkiewicz, executive director at Woodcock Nature Center in Wilton, said of the early spring.

With the warm weather, everything seems to be blooming early and speeding up the natural order of events. Animals came out of hibernation early during the early warm weather only to have it freeze again, Teraszkiewicz said.

“Plus with the dryness of the marshlands and vernal pools, amphibians are not able to lay their eggs at all,” he said.

Even the horseshoe crabs are ahead of schedule, appearing for the first time in Long Island Sound in April instead of the usual end of May, said Joe Schnierlein, manager of professional development and interns at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk .

No one was sure how early warming would impact the environment going forward because of the variables involved, one of which is the level of oxygen in the Sound.

Longer periods of hypoxia, or oxygen depletion, which normally occurs for just a few days in August, is a huge concern for Schnierlein. Hypoxia can diminish populations of sea life, either by forced migration or death, which in turn will harm creatures dependent on those organisms, the Ecological Society of America’s website said.

“The good news is that a good storm can help to put oxygen back in the water,” Schnierlein said. And though the current levels of oxygen are safe, “the levels have slowly been coming down.”

“I know a lot of us are keeping our fingers crossed,” said Schnierlein, hoping that rain will come soon.

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