Mini Workshop #4: Forests and terrestrial ecosystems - June 21, 2002 Minneapolis, Minnesota

Climate Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems of the Great Lakes Region:
The Potential Impacts and What We Can Do

“Climate change is our #1 long term problem," stated Anne Seha, MPCA Deputy Commissioner, pointing out that education and research are key for taking steps towards important changes. MPCA has worked with Dept. of Transportation among other organizations to incorporate climate change information into planning strategies. Ms. Seha was excited about the upcoming Excel metro energy emissions reductions proposal which could potentially reduce over 2 million tons of CO2 annually. She proudly congratulated the cities of St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Duluth for their awards from the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign.

Dr. Peter Sousounis compared and contrasted the GCMs (general circulation models) used in the Great Lakes Regional Climate Change Assessment. The CGCM1 (“Canadian model”) and the HadCM2 (“Hadley Model”) both project temperature increases, where the number of extremely hot (90+ °F) days will likely increase significantly by the end of this century. Both models indicate an increase in precipitation, yet, much of that precipitation increase occurs in the fall and spring (outside the growing season). Dr. John Pastor points out that it is what happens during the growing season that is key for forest productivity. Dr. Pastor notes that even if the precipitation increases, soil moisture might decrease, since the evaporative demand is very high (if the temperature increases are large enough). Minnesota today vs. a projected future view of Minnesota, was also presented by Dr. Pastor. Both Karen Walker and Dr. Pastor agreed that shifts in tree species ranges could be dramatic, including a significant decrease in conifer forests.

So, what do we do? We need to reduce net fossil fuel emissions, Dr. Pastor said. One way to do this is to look at the carbon flow through the timber industry. About half the dry weight of of durable hardwood products (eg., wood furniture) is sequestered carbon. We are cutting the forest too soon and loosing net carbon storage by doing so. By encouraging slower growing forest practices (like the old-growth forests Jack Rajala manages) which produce the hard durable products, the timber industry can be part of the solution. Jack Rajala, of Rajala Lumber Industries, agrees that both private and public landowners, are increasingly focused on managing for long-lived, hardwood forests with a shift to higher value products. Rajala said that change is nothing new to this industry, and global warming will bring more change in how we manage the forests placing much greater emphasis on forest health and productivity. Mr. Rajala also expressed concern over loosing well-managed forests to parcelization. In closing he stated that “we need to be bigger people and think bigger, to deal with some bigger problems.”

Dave Zumeta presented major issues in Minnesota´s long term forest sustainability: timber harvesting and forest management, human population growth and related development, and global climate change. Dave focused on adaptation because “climate change is here” and many future generations will have to cope with climate change in coming decades.

The afternoon session began with Dr. Jeff Price addressing the common belief that birds are only limited by habitat, and explained how birds adapt to climate by moving. In fact, we are already seeing these large scale shifts: 20-40% of warblers are found further north than they were 25 years ago. Bird hunters may just have to shift their focus (e.g., MN may loose Sharp Tailed Grouse and Partridge, but see more Northern Bobwhite). So why should we care? How do you assess value to wildlife? While some things cannot be quantified such as social, cultural religious and spiritual values, aesthetic value might be economically quantified by looking at lost revenue, for example, in 2001, more than 1.9 million Minnesotans spent $532 million watching wildlife. Risk assessment needs to be calculated: Pest control, seed dispersal, and plant pollination are some of the crucial functions that birds provide, which was clearly illustrated by the case study: Birds, Spruce Budworms, and Climate Change. In short, budworms can readily adapt to climate change (more budworm outbreaks, more forest damage), while escaping the control of their natural predators, such as the warbler who continues to move up north.

Harvey Nelson presented the past, present and future perspectives of wetland and wildlife management. Jay Rendall covered an array of invasive species, including to the surprise of many, the common earthworm, which is non-native and potentially damaging to forests. Terry Shreiner talked about wildlife that is appearing and disappearing, but commented on the decrease in diversity which they are seeing today at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Karen Scott showed the newly released Climate Change Wildlife and Wildlife Toolkit, which provides a video and materials to assist educators in communicating climate change with the public.

Presented by: Great Lakes Regional Climate Change Assessment, National Wildlife Federation, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Michigan State University

Agenda (html / pdf)

Speaker Presentations

Q&A Periods

Workshop Report (pdf)

Invitation or Flyer

Press Release


Order Video Tape of Workshop Day


Forest-Related News....

Forests in the age of global warming; Early test results suggest that Great Lakes forests may struggle to survive due to the effects of global warming. Great Lakes Radio Consortium (8/5)

Into the wormless woods Some northern woods are under siege by a new type of invader - the earthworm. Swept clear from the region by glaciers thousands of years ago, earthworms are getting a free ride back thanks to fishermen who toss their leftover bait into the woods. Earthwatch Radio (9/2)

Scientists want to know if trees in Wisconsin can help limit global warming and they worry pollutants might offset their abilities to slow an increase in world temperatures. Source: Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) (7/8)

A major shift is taking place in US timber ownership, and it could have significant consequences not just for the industry but also for ecosystems across the country....more

The National Forest Foundation's (NFF) Matching Awards Program. By matching federal funds to private dollars with a 1:1 ratio, the NFF is able to implement projects that directly benefit forest and grassland health. Pre-proposals are due July 1, 2002.

National Fire Plan Is Helping Coordination Efforts at Federal and State Levels

GLIFWC attempts to archive elders' plant knowledge es in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota in order to document traditional uses of plants for food and medicinal purposes. Source: The Ashland Daily Press (6/13)

Take action on forest issues