The Nature Conservancy: Adaptation Forestry in Minnesota's Northwoods
This project was funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society in 2012, and planting occured in the spring of 2013 and 2014 across several sites in northeastern Minnesota. TNC and the University of Minnesota-Duluth are coordinating monitoring of this project over time.
This project was designed specifically to demonstrate and test climate-informed management practices designed to make forests more resilient in the long-run. In the Great Lakes region, conventional forestry practices have emphasized simple stand structures through even-aged management practices. Aspen has tended to benefit across much of the landscape. The focus of this project, consists of a combination of management practices to increase ecosystem complexity:
- Managing for a range of species with a diverse array of life history traits (e.g., shade tolerance, drought and fire). A full spectrum of traits translates to a better ability to respond favorably to new climate conditions
- Managing for a multi-aged forest using partial harvest methods.
- Planting a suite of climate-adapted tree species (bur oak, red oak, white pine, and basswood). TNC chose these species because ecological modeling suggests they are likely to thrive under warmer, drier conditions. All four species are native to the region, but uncommon due to a legacy of past harvesting practices, a climate that historically favored boreal species, and dispersal limitations.
Climate Change Impacts
This project was designed with several adaptation practices in mind:
- Promoting diverse age classes
- Retaining biological legacies
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
9.1. Favor or restore native species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
Project partners planted almost 109,000 seedlings across the various project sites. Bur oak, northern red oak, white pine, and basswood are all native to northern Minnesota and expected to be favored by future climate conditions.
8.1. Use seeds, germplasm, and other genetic material from across a greater geographic range.
Seedlings of each species will come from 2 distinct seed zones in Minnesota, plus a third seed zone in lower Michigan for white pine.
9.4. Protect future-adapted seedlings and saplings.
Seedlings were protected from deer herbivory with a combination of bud caps and tree tubes.
Forest Management Practices
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
5.3. Retain biological legacies.
Planting sites were selected because they had recently employed partial harvest methods such as patch clearcuts and group selection. Large seed trees and snags were retained at each site.
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