Best Native Trees for our Changing Climate

Climate change has many impacts on the natural environment and there are many ways we can help reduce climate change. There is yet another way to help with the impacts of climate change. Planting a diversity of trees that are predicted to thrive in a changing climate will help the landscape adapt and become more resilient.

Minnesota's climate is changing. Average temperatures have increased 1 - 3 ◦F statewide with the greatest temperature increases in the winter. Total precipitation has increased with more intense rainfalls. Despite the increase in total precipitation, there have been more days between precipitation events, which increases the potential for drought. The US National Climate Assessment predicts that these trends will continue in Minnesota. By the end of the century, Minnesota will likely have the summer climate of Nebraska and Kansas (Figure 1). Plant communities and habitat types will change along with the changing climate. Most tree species northward range are predicted to shift about 300 miles by the end of the century (McKenney et al. 2007). The change in tree cover alters the understory and the habitat for wildlife. One way to help the landscape adapt and become more resilient is to plant a diversity of trees and include species from more southern areas.

US Forest Service climate change models predict these trees are likely to thrive in a changing climate in the Metro region:

Tree Species

Habitat

American elm *

Average – Moist soil, floodplains, deciduous forest, swamps

Basswood

Deciduous forests, woodland edges

Black Oak

Savanna

Black Walnut

Mixed forest, Savannas, banks

Bur Oak

Forest to open prairie

Cottonwood

Lowland forests along along lakes and streams, floodplains

Hackberry

Average – Moist soil, Hardwood forest, floodplains, river bank

Shagbark hickory

Upland dry forest

Silver maple

Floodplain forest, riverbanks

White Oak

Upland dry forest

* disease resistant needed


Consider the habitat, moisture, soil, and sun conditions when selecting trees for your property.

https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/treecare/best-native-yard-trees.html


McKenney DW Pedlar JH Lawrence K Campbell K Hutchinson MF. 2007. Potential impacts of climate change on the distribution of North American trees. BioScience 57:939-948.

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Minnesota's Changing Climate

Flooding in a Southwestern MN Ag. Field

Minnesota is one of the states most impacted by climate change. Official precipitation and temperature data has been collected in Minnesota from 1895 through today, showing some striking statistics about our changing climate:

  • 13% increase in the size of the heaviest annual rainfall.
  • Since 2000, rains of more than 6" are four times more frequent than the previous 30 years prior.
  • 65% increase in the number of 3" rains.
  • Average temperatures in Minnesota have warmed by 3˚F since 1895.
  • Overall, Minnesota's climate is warmer and wetter.


These changes are impacting Minnesota's wildlife, forests, water quality, infrastructure, and outdoor recreation (especially winter sports). Below are some links to MN DNR infographic GIFs that shows the change to our 30-year average winter temperature and 30-year average yearly precipitation:

 

Sinkhole in Duluth Following a 7"+ Rainfall
As you can see, Minnesota's winters are warming dramatically, with the 9˚ contour moving  north by as much as 150 miles. Similarly, the 26" contour for precipitation has migrated roughly 100 miles to the Northwest.

We witnessed the impact of elevated precipitation in 2012 when the most damaging flood in Duluth's recorded history began when heavy rains fell over already saturated ground on June 19th and 20th. At the Duluth National Weather Service (NWS) the rainfall total for those two days was 7.24 inches. A NWS volunteer observer in Two Harbors recorded the storm's largest value of 10.45 inches in 24 hours.

The aftermath included millions of dollars of insurance losses to repair roads, bridges, homes and businesses. Many homes foundations were damaged extensively and the houses were razed. One state highway (MN 23) was closed for 3 years while it was repaired. The City of Duluth has had to adapt their stormwater infrastructure to withstand events that 30 years ago were considered 500-year events, but now happen regularly. In June 2018, just southeast of Duluth, the area received up to 10" of rain and once again damaged Highway 23.

Here in Anoka County, we've witnessed a similar story in 2019, with all of the monitored lakes, rivers, and streams in the County reaching historic water level averages for the year. This increase in precipitation only solidifies the need for comprehensive watershed management to make sure that our infrastructure and waterways can handle the increased erosion and flow produced by this additional rain. 

 Interested in learning more? Check out MN Pollution Control Agency's Climate Change in Minnesota webpage or the MN Department of Natural Resources Climate Data

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