Mississippi Park Connection; US Forest Service
The Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS) encompasses over 2,600,000 acres and supplies essential ecosystem services including clean drinking water to millions of people, critical habitat for more than 40% of all North American waterfowl and shorebirds, and billions of dollars in economic revenue through shipping. Currently, high levels of tree mortality and limited regeneration characterize much of the forested tracts, especially those above pool 10 near the Minnesota-Iowa-Wisconsin border. Due to lack of research, managers are left with more questions than answers in how to maintain and restore floodplain forests in a changing environment. While there are many key areas of uncertainty, one of the biggest is the lack of a mechanistic understanding of how the dynamic nature of the floodplain (e.g. seasonal flooding and drought) influences juvenile tree growth and survival.
Our proposed solution is to advance understanding and information on effective practices to maintain and restore floodplain forest in the face of current stressors. We use a flexible framework of diverse actions and pathways offered by the Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC) network consisting of four management approaches: resistance, resilience, transition, and no action. We will use the biological infrastructure afforded by the Crosby Farm ASCC project located in St. Paul, MN and developed through a manager-scientist workshop that included researchers and managers from the region. With MnDRIVE seed grant funding, a graduate student will lead research on the physiological response of planted tree saplings focusing on key times of stress that can lead to tree mortality: spring flooding and late summer dry periods.
Our proposed work is critical to developing active restoration and climate adaptive management, the lack of which will likely result in loss of UMRS floodplain forest ecosystems. Our partners have prioritized maintaining forest cover and tree plantings are widely implemented; however, many fail due to the lack of research on the mechanistic basis of successful approaches. Thus, information from our project will have an immediate impact on planning successful future restoration and climate adaptive management. Further, restoring and maintaining floodplain forests will have wide ranging effects on nature’s benefits to people given their importance for clean water, wildlife habitat, recreation and transportation.