Researchers restore forests in northeastern Minnesota’s changing landscape

View from Eagle Mountain, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (Public domain photo)
View from Eagle Mountain, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (Public domain photo)

The iconic tree species of northern Minnesota depend on a cold climate. They also don’t do well with whitetail deer that like to feast on their seedlings. After being logged out a century ago, the region is still recovering, and the Nature Conservancy and partners are planting thousands of jack pine and tamarack in areas they think will have the right conditions to preserve natural biodiversity in the future.

This summer, scientists are planting trees on 400 acres in 30 locations north of Duluth. They will plant 50,000 more seedlings next year. A recent article in the Star Tribune reported on the initiative:

If you want to plant a pine tree that might survive the climate upheavals that are already remaking northern Minnesota’s boreal forest, where should it go?

Scientists from the Nature Conservancy and elsewhere now think they know. This summer they’re embarking on a project to plant 400 acres with cold-loving evergreens like jack pine and tamarack in carefully selected “conifer strongholds” — places that they predict will stay cooler or wetter or have better soil, increasing the chances that a few of each species will survive for the next generation as Minnesota grows warmer.

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The effort is part of a nationwide program of the Nature Conservancy to map areas that will be resilient as global temperatures are predicted to rise 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 80 years. The mapping data can identify areas that will stay cooler due to topography, elevation, vegetation, proximity to water, and other factors.

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