Project Underway to Save Minnesota’s Iconic Conifers

Warmer, drier climate threatens Minnesota’s iconic white pine, white cedar and other long-lived conifers. © John Gregor

“One of the goals of the project is to really shift people’s thinking …planting for diversity can enhance the adaptability of conifer strongholds.” – Meredith Cornett, The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy announced today that it is planting native spruce, pine, and tamarack trees this year and next to help ensure conifers endure in Minnesota’s Northwoods.

By carefully selecting its sites, the Conservancy plans to create “conifer strongholds” where the native trees can thrive even under the warmer, drier conditions projected for the Great Lakes Region.

A diverse mix of the iconic trees once made up 70 percent of northeast Minnesota’s forestland, but today conifers constitute about half that number.

“These conifers really dominated in most of northeastern Minnesota,” says Meredith Cornett, science director for the Conservancy in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. “If we tried to restore them everywhere they once were, we don’t think it would be a successful or sustainable strategy.” So, the Conservancy will be planting in “conifer strongholds”—areas of diverse topography (such as hills and wetlands) that have been historically cooler or are warming less rapidly than much of northern Minnesota.

By doing so, the Conservancy hopes northern conifers such as white pine, jack pine, white spruce, tamarack and white cedar continue to thrive despite a regional climate that scientists predict will be both warmer and wetter, but with a drier summer growing season.

The Conservancy’s project is called Conifer Strongholds in a Changing Northwoods Landscape. The…

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