Aquatic invasive species pose critical ecological and economic challenges for the entire state and beyond. They can cause irreparable harm to fisheries and aquatic habitat as well as damage to infrastructure. The problems posed by aquatic invasive species continue to grow as existing infestations expand and new exotic species arrive, most of which are poorly understood. New ideas and approaches are needed to develop real solutions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ecological restorations aim to aid the recovery of native ecosystems that have been degraded or lost. However, very seldom are restorations evaluated past the initial implementation phase to determine whether the efforts achieved their goals and the funds spent were a strategic conservation investment. Monitoring and evaluation of restorations can teach what works and what does not in order to advance restoration practices and increase the likelihood of success for future projects.
Zebra mussels are an aquatic species that are invasive in Minnesota and severely threaten native fish and other aquatic species by disrupting food webs and damaging spawning habitat. Their range continues to expand within Minnesota lakes and rivers, where they are spread through the transporting of water, vegetation, or equipment from an infested water body. Once established zebra mussels are very difficult to control and there is an immediate need for safe and effective control measures to reduce their impacts in the state.