Adaptation forestry in Minnesota's Northwoods to benefit wildlife and the local economy

The Nature Conservancy
Posted on: 10/01/2017 - Updated on: 1/24/2023

Posted by

Meredith Cornett


Healthy forests provide many benefits to people and nature in Minnesota, including jobs and forest products, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities, as well as clean air and water.

Minnesota has a wealth of forested land, but climate change puts our forests at risk. Forests of the Great Lakes region will likely experience some of the most dramatic changes in response to climate change in the continental U.S. due to a decline in boreal tree species as the climate grows warmer and available moisture during the growing season diminishes.

A multi-partner project in northeast Minnesota has taken 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. We planted 109,000 climate-adapted tree seedlings, including bur oak, red oak and white pine using both local and seed sources from further south or west where climate conditions are warmer.

Early results comparing seedling survival, growth and phenology suggest that this facilitation approach to adaptation—using within-range planting of climate-adapted temperate zone tree species—may be part of an effective strategy for sustaining the benefits of northern forests for people and nature in the climate change era.

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