The Nature Conservancy, Minnesota

Climate Change Challenge

Conventional forestry practices in the Great Lakes region currently emphasize the regeneration of aspen-birch forests using techniques such as clear-cutting and planting white spruce or red pine. It is likely that this approach will become unviable in the future as many northern tree species decline under anticipated warmer, drier conditions. Forest systems that are adapted to a narrow range of conditions are expected to be more vulnerable to climate change than those with higher diversity.

The Conservation Response

A multi-partner project lead by The Nature Conservancy in northeast Minnesota are taking a first step to help to keep northern forests healthy and productive in an uncertain future by using a combination of management and planting that increases forest complexity and bolsters resilience. This work is influencing the adaptive capacity across millions of acres in the Great Lakes region.

These new forest management strategies include planting a greater variety of tree species with diverse traits (e.g., tolerance of shade, drought and fire). This will provide the opportunity for the best-suited species to thrive under new climate conditions. The partners are testing these strategies in the Arrowhead region of northeast Minnesota where more than 109,000 native red oak, bur oak, white pine, yellow birch and basswood trees were planted on 2,000 acres of federal, state and county lands.

These species are native to the area, but currently exist in smaller numbers due to logging, a historically cooler climate that favored boreal species, and their own limited ability to disperse their seeds far and wide.

They are monitoring the results to assess survival rates and collect additional information to help guide and make adjustments to forest management as needed.

Geography

Minnesota

Project sites are located in the Northern Superior Uplands (NSU) ecological section. Seedlings will be sourced from both the NSU and the Northern Minnesota Drift and Lake Plains (DLP).

Sky Island Alliance
Greater Yellowstone Coalition