Minnesota To Look Like Kansas?

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“Climate change will not impact forests in a vacuum.”
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Spring Grove Herald
April 15, 2008

Experts think SE Minnesota will look like Kansas if trends continue

Mary Whalen
Special to the Herald

Although climate change is headlined on a daily
basis in newspapers across the country and around
the world, many wonder if Minnesota will really
be affected by changing global patterns.

Tuesday, April 8, those gathering at the
Lanesboro Public Library heard a presentation
entitled “Climate Changes on Forests” by Dr. Lee
Frelich, director, University of Minnesota Center
for Hardwood Ecology, and vice president, Eastern
Native Tree Society.

The program was one of 10 sponsored by Southeast
Library System (SELS) and the University of
Minnesota Experiment in Rural Cooperation (ERC),
offered to encourage those living in southern
Minnesota to “dialogue with field experts to
consider, discuss, and debate issues relating to
the sustainable development of rural communities
and landscapes.”

Frelich stated, “The Kandiyohi forest at the edge
of the prairie, with its elms, oaks, American
basswood, hackberry and Kentucky Coffeetree, is
the best blueprint we have for future forests in
Minnesota under a warmer climate. These tree
species also grow in eastern Kansas, which has a
climate like that we think Minnesota will have by
the end of the 21st century with a ‘business as
usual’ scenario.”

Possible big changes

Elaborating on how the climate change would
affect the southern region of Minnesota, Frelich
spoke of how the invasive species and high deer
populations will transform our forests over the
next century. His comments explained that exotic
earthworm invasions are creating new forest
ecosystems in Minnesota by altering the structure
of the soil.

“European earthworms are the master invaders in
our ecosystems because they change the structure
of the soil so that it is warmer, drier, and has
low nutrient availability,” commented Frelich,

“Earthworms exacerbate the impact of warming
climate on forests and a warmer climate will help
exotic earthworms spread faster.”

The extensive research Frelich has done on boreal
forests in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Wilderness and his work in the area of patterns
of tree height in the eastern United States set
him in a position to recommend strategies for
Minnesotans to consider.

He remarked, “Climate change will not impact
forests in a vacuum. A large number of invasive
species, exotic tree diseases, population
explosions of native insects, and high deer
population will all add to the negative impacts
of global warming on our forests. Many existing
tree species will not grow in Minnesota in the
future.”

Seeing the effect of global warming with trees as
a part of a larger concern, Amy Larson, project
librarian for Libraries as Partners in Rural
Sustainability added, “Southeastern Minnesota
towns are being eroded by a globalized, networked
world that extracts human, economic, and natural
resources from rural communities.

“When resources are depleted, the impact is heavy
on a rural community, as has been seen in many
small towns. The Rural Sustainability programs
provide opportunities for people to come together
and talk to experts about issues affecting them,
their communities, and the world. The actions of
each of us today will determine the quality of
life in the future. Learning about the issues
affecting our future is the first step in moving
toward a brighter tomorrow.”

Frelich described what has been observed and
predicted in the area of changes to the forests
in Minnesota and offered practical suggestions
area residents could incorporate in an effort to
adjust as overall temperatures rise. Conservation
of natural resources, leaving less of a “carbon
footprint,” and altering lifestyles were among
his recommendations.

He believes that unless climate mitigation is
successful, our summer climate will be like that
of Kansas by the end of the century.

See all programs

The presentation was filmed by Melanie Olson, of
SELCO Library Support Services department. A link
offering a view of the night’s PowerPoint program
can be found on the SE Library System Web site
www.selco.info/programs-services/rural-sustainability/

Erin Meier, director of the University of
Minnesota Southeast Regional Sustainable
Development Partnership remarked, “The University
of Minnesota Southeast Regional Partnership is
pleased to be collaborating with the Southeast
Library System on this forum series. What a great
combination: University of Minnesota experts
accessible to small gatherings at our rural
libraries discussing topics of vital concern to
southeast Minnesota residents.

“The 10-part series covers a broad range of
sustainable development issues from tourism to
climate change to local foods. We hope the
information will spark further dialogue as
communities take on the challenge to chart their
own futures and become more self-reliant.”

Two sessions in this series about Sustainable
Rural Communities in southeastern Minnesota
remain. They include Visions for Rural Design –
Houston Nature Center, April 15, and Local Food
Supply – La Crescent, April 17.

Forum schedules begin at 6:30 p.m. and generally
run for an hour and with a question/answer period
with discussion following. Meetings are offered
free of charge and are open to everyone.

Content © 2008 Phillips Publishing, Inc.

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