Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface area, is amongst Minnesota’s greatest natural resources providing drinking water, shipping, recreation, and tourism. Recently the lake has been undergoing significant changes including increasing water temperatures, decreasing ice cover, increasing nutrient loads, decreasing biological productivity, increasing invasive species, and changes in species abundance and distribution. The reasons behind these changes and the interactions amongst them are not well understood.
Moose, one of Minnesota's prized wildlife species, are dying at much higher rates in Minnesota than elsewhere in North America. Recently observed increases in mortality rates amongst some moose in northeastern Minnesota have led to concern that the population there may be entering a decline like that seen in the northwestern part of the state, where moose populations fell from over 4,000 to fewer than 100 in less than 20 years. Additionally the specific causes of increased mortality amongst individual moose remain under investigation.
Moose, one of Minnesota’s most iconic wildlife species, are dying at increasingly higher rates in Minnesota and there is uncertainty as to why. Estimates suggest the population declined 35 percent just between 2012 to 2013, and projections suggest moose could be nearly gone from the state by 2020 if this trend is not halted and, ideally, reversed.
Native to the western United States and Canada, mountain pine beetle is considered the most devastating forest insect in North America. Trees usually die as a result of infestation and an unprecedented outbreak in the west is currently decimating pine forests there. While mountain pine beetle is not presently believed to reside in Minnesota, there are risks posed by an expanding species range resulting from warming climate and the potential for accidental introduction via lumber imports from infested areas.
Pollinators play a key role in ecosystem function and in agriculture, including thousands of native plants and more than one hundred U.S. crops that either need or benefit from pollinators. However, pollinators are in dramatic decline in Minnesota and throughout the country. The causes of the decline are not completely understood, but identified factors include loss of nesting sites, fewer flowers, increased disease, and increased pesticide use. Developing an aware, informed citizenry that understands this issue is one key to finding and implementing solutions to counteract these factors.