Through various means, human produced chemicals can make their way into surface waters where they can have adverse effects on the function of ecological communities. Of particular concern are antibiotics and other antimicrobial substances because they have the potential to create increased antibiotic resistance. While there is a background level of naturally occurring antibiotic resistance in the natural world, elevated or persistent levels caused by human activities have the potential to harm human, animal, and overall ecosystem health.
There is a critical need to understand how our natural resources are already responding to climate change in order to develop tools for projecting natural resource responses into the future and to devise plans for actions that can be taken in reaction to observed and predicted changes. Phenology – the timing of seasonal biological events such as budburst, flowering, bird migration, and leaf coloring – provides a tested indicator of climate change response by plants and animals.
Large deposits of copper, nickel, cobalt, and other minerals in northeastern Minnesota could provide huge economic and employment benefits to the state while becoming an important source of important metals for the country. However, the mining required to extract them could have significant water quality impacts in a region that includes the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness and other environmentally sensitive watersheds.
Bees play a key role in ecosystem function and in agriculture, including more than one hundred U.S. crops either need or benefit from pollinators. However, bee pollinators are in dramatic decline in Minnesota and throughout the country. One of the potential causes appears to be a scarcity of bee-friendly flowers, particularly in urban areas, which is leading to nutritional deficiencies, chronic exposure to pesticides, and debilitating diseases and parasites.
Overall Project Outcome and Results
Minnesota prairies reliably produce bioenergy resources which largely go untapped. This project sought management practices to promote wildlife and habitat diversity on future working prairies used for bioenergy in Minnesota. It combined harvested areas with refuges and monitored wildlife populations and bioenergy potential in Minnesota grasslands, while developing protocols for future long-term work.
Invasive carp species, including silver carp and bighead carp, are migrating north up the Mississippi River and pose threats to the native fish and aquatic ecosystems of Minnesota rivers and lakes where they can become established. While individual carp have been found in Minnesota, it is not presently believed that there are established breeding populations in the state.
On many public lands in northwest Minnesota, cattail growth has far exceeded the distribution recommended for optimum wetland wildlife habitat and a need for cattail control has become recognized. Cattails have also recently been demonstrated to have bioenergy potential.
Minnesota ranks #2 in hog production and #1 in sugar beet production in the U.S., generating about 11 million tons of pig manure and over one million tons of sugar processing wastes annually. Presently there are not cost-effective methods available to deal with these waste streams other than land application, which usually results in nutrient runoff into ground and surface water resources.
Common carp, introduced from eastern Europe over a century ago, are an invasive species in Minnesota that adversely affect water quality and aquatic communities, particularly in shallow lakes and wetlands. While solutions for suppressing common carp reproduction and abundance are emerging, controlling the movement of common carp, and therefore preventing reinfestation, has so far proved difficult.
The Minnesota County Geologic Atlas program is an ongoing effort begun in 1982 that is being conducted jointly by the University of Minnesota's Minnesota Geological Survey and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The program collects information on the geology of Minnesota to create maps and reports depicting the characteristics and pollution sensitivity of Minnesota's ground-water resources.
The Minnesota County Geologic Atlas program is an ongoing effort begun in 1979 that is being conducted jointly by the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Geological Survey and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). This portion, called Part A and conducted by the Minnesota Geological Survey, collects geologic information to produce maps and databases that define aquifer boundaries and the connection of aquifers to the land surface and surface water resources.
Each year Minnesota municipal wastewater treatment plants generate large amounts of oily scum, concentrated liquid called centrate, and sludge. These waste streams are disposed of either in landfills or by burning or subjected to additional treatment. However, new technologies have shown potential to capture resource values from these waste products while lowering the treatment costs for these waste streams.
Minnesota’s natural resource professional workforce is much less diverse than its citizenry and many other professional fields. The benefits of a more diverse workforce are many, including the ability of organizations to increase innovation and creativity, attract higher qualified candidate pools, and ensure services that meet the diverse interests and needs of all citizens.
Over 527,000 acres of unmanaged woodlands are being used for livestock grazing throughout Minnesota. Managing these grazed woodlands based on the use of best management practices can provide environmental and economic opportunities, including improved water quality, maximized forage production, and higher-quality timber. The best management practices involved are commonly used in other parts of the country with other types of ecosystems, but have not been widely adopted in Minnesota due to a lack of knowledge and experience with implementing them within the ecosystems of Minnesota.
Minnesota has 9.5 million acres of public forest lands that play an important role in sustaining Minnesota’s environment and economy. The policies and programs used by public timber sale programs can impact post-harvest ecological conditions and have pronounced effects on the composition, structure, and productivity of the forest in the future. Additionally, timber harvesting revenues play an important role in economic activity, employment, and tax revenue.
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.
Elms were once a very widespread tree in Minnesota and amongst the most common and popular in urban landscapes due to their size, shading capability, and tolerance of pollution and other stresses. Over the past five decades, though, Dutch elm disease, an exotic and invasive pathogen, has killed millions of elms throughout the state. However, scientists at the University of Minnesota have observed that some elms have survived the disease and appear to have special characteristics that make them resistant to Dutch elm disease.
The Soudan Iron Mine near Ely, Minnesota is no longer an active mine and is now part of a state park, as well as the home to a state-of-the-art physics laboratory at the bottom of the mine. The mine has also been discovered to contain an extreme environment in the form of an ancient and very salty brine bubbling up from a half-mile below the Earth’s surface through holes drilled when the mine was active. Strange microorganisms – part of an ecosystem never before characterized by science – have been found living in the brine.
Minnesota has 15.9 million acres of forest land managed by a variety of county, state and federal agencies, and private landowners for timber production, wildlife habitat, and ecological considerations. Forest managers rely on inventory data to make effective planning and management decisions. Because forests are continually changing through natural and human processes, forest inventory data is periodically updated. However, doing so is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor and, as a result, much of Minnesota’s forest inventory data is currently out of date.
Over the last decade, a parasitic disease, Heterosporosis, has spread to infect fish in at least 20 water bodies in Minnesota. The parasite infects a number of economically important fish, making them inedible. As the disease can currently only be detected in its late stages, little is known about how it is transmitted and how best to control it.
The University of Minnesota’s Landscape Arboretum is the largest and most diverse horticultural site in Minnesota. It features gardens and natural areas representative of Minnesota and the upper-Midwest that can be explored using several miles of trails. Additionally it conducts fruit and plant breeding research to develop cultivars that have particular desired characteristics, such as cold hardiness or disease resistance. The arboretum has a long-term goal of protecting the entire watershed of which it is a part.
Minnesota supports over 14 million acres of cropland in grain production. Almost 600,000 tons of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are needed annually to maintain productivity on this land, which requires the equivalent of 3,000,000 barrels of oil and costs farmers over $400 million dollars per year. This amount of fossil fuel use results in a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions, while the absence of fossil energy resources in the state means that these synthetic nitrogen fertilizers must be imported into Minnesota from other states and overseas.
Waste streams often contain unutilized resources that if properly extracted or otherwise utilized could be used to provide additional sources of renewable energy or other benefits. Wastewater is one of the primary candidate waste streams because of its nutrient content and researchers have been developing technologies such as microbial fuel cells and algal-based biofuel production in order make use of these nutrients.
Many types of bacteria perform critical ecological functions, such as cycling carbon and other nutrients, which enable life to exist. In fact, humans harness these types of bacteria in certain engineered systems, such as wastewater treatment plants and landfills, to provide various benefits such as protecting surface waters from excess nitrogen, decomposing solid waste, and treating wastewater.
The Arboretum, consistent with the priorities of the LSOHC, successfully purchased 78.13 acres in Victoria, Minnesota adjacent to Arboretum property. The purchase will ensure the protection of the deepest lake in Carver County and valuable habitat for future generations.