August 20, 2019 | 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Meetings are at the Grand Ely Lodge at noon on Tuesdays. More information will be available closer to the meeting dates.
This week we welcome back Lee Frelich and his presentation on the Boreal Refugium Project.
Boreal refugia: Where will Minnesota’s boreal forest persist in a rapidly warming climate?
Lee E. Frelich, University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology, firstname.lastname@example.org
, May 2019
Short Science Narrative
Boreal forests are the Earth’s northernmost forests. They occupy more land than any other forest type on the planet and are one of the world’s leading purveyors of ecosystems services, with vast fresh water, fish and wildlife resources. Minnesota is unique in having three biomes, including a large swath of boreal forest across the northeastern corner of the state, along with temperate forest and grassland biomes. Boreal species make up one-third of the state’s biodiversity, with many species of mammals, birds, fish, plants, and trees that would not exist in the state in the absence of the boreal forest.
Minnesota’s boreal forests are threatened by climatic warming that could allow temperate tree species like oak and maple, or grasslands, to invade their territory. Depending on future scenarios for greenhouse gas emissions and sensitivity of the climate, the southern margin of the boreal forest could retreat up to 300 miles northeastwards, potentially exiting the state altogether.
However, far to the south of the boreal biome in northeastern Minnesota, there are isolated stands of boreal forest that have persisted for thousands of years, embedded in a landscape of temperate forests or grasslands. These are known as ‘boreal refugia’ and have unique, local climates, which are colder than the surrounding landscape. Included are lowland drainage basins with cold air pooling at night (bogs in central and southern Minnesota), north-facing hillsides and cliffs in rugged landscapes (the Driftless Area in southeastern Minnesota), and lakeshores with deep, cold water upwells (Door Peninsula in Wisconsin on Lake Michigan).
The overarching question is: Where are potential future refugia in Minnesota’s boreal forest?
• How far northwards will the southern margin of the boreal forest retreat as the climate warms?
• What magnitude of climate change would allow a sliver of the southern boreal forest to remain in northern Minnesota?
• If the main range of the boreal forest leaves Minnesota, will boreal refugia occur, and if so where?
• What patterns of boreal refugia will occur across North America?
Two research projects could answer these questions:
• Expand the level of detail in the biome models recently developed at the University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology to allow fine-scale analyses of phenomena such as cold air pooling in lowlands, temperature differences between north and south facing slopes, and cold water upwelling near shores of large lakes.
• Map areas across northern Minnesota that may allow for persistence of boreal refugia as the climate warms. An expanded project could also include mapping refugia across the entire boreal forest, from Alaska to Newfoundland.
Don’t miss this week’s presentation by Lee Frelich and come a little early as we will have a short preview by Tanner Ott on the status and future plans for Ely’s Historic State Theatre. Exciting things are on the horizon and you could be a part of it! https://www.elystatetheater.com/
Location: Grand Ely Lodge
400 N Pioneer Road, Ely, MN, 55731