The occurrences of contaminants including antibiotics, other pharmaceuticals, and personal care products in the environment have gained increasing attention in recent years because of their potential health and ecological impacts. However, serious gaps remain in our understanding of these contaminants and the significance of the threats they may pose, such as to drinking water. Through this appropriation scientists at the University of St.
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.
Garlic mustard is a non-native, invasive plant species that is severely threatening native plant communities and degrading wildlife habitat in forest and riparian zones throughout the state. The plant is considered the highest priority species for development of long-term management solutions such as biological control, which involves using natural enemies of a non-native species from its native region to control or reduce the impact of the species in the areas where they are invasive.
Enrollment of private lands in conservation programs can provide important natural resource and other public benefits by taking the lands out of production so that they can provide various wildlife, water quality, and ecological benefits. This appropriation is enabling the Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources to continue to provide grants to local soil and water conservation districts for employment of technical staff to assist private landowners in implementing conservation programs.
Grassland ecosystems evolved to depend on periodic disturbances, such as fire and grazing, to maintain their health and stability. Periodic disturbances help control invasive species, add nutrients back into the soil, germinate plant seeds, enhance wildlife habitat, and more. In Minnesota habitat managers have used fire as a disturbance tool for decades but the use of grazing has been much rarer, mostly because of a lack of necessary infrastructure such as fencing.
The purchase of conservation easements—restrictions on land use that protect natural features while keeping land in private ownership—has proven to be an effective means to protect land at a lower initial cost than full state ownership. However, once an easement is purchased there are ongoing stewardship, monitoring, and enforcement responsibilities necessary to ensure the terms of the agreement between the easement holder and the landowner are met.
Appropriations to non-state entities must be made through a formal contract with a state entity that manages all of the funds for the project on a reimbursement basis. This appropriation to Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) funds the expenses incurred by the DNR in contracting, contract management, and expense re-imbursement for most of the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund appropriations made to non-state entities, including both new projects funded during the biennium and existing projects funded in previous bienniums.
Terrestrial invasive plants such as buckthorn, wild parsnip, garlic mustard, and others are becoming widespread threats throughout many sites in Minnesota. Present chemical and mechanical control methods tend to be costly, effective only in the short-term, or have other negative environmental impacts. However, an alternative practice of using grazing animals for invasive species management is used successfully in many parts of the western United States.
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.
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 B and conducted by the DNR, analyzes water samples to understand water chemistry and sensitivity to pollution.
Asian carp pose a real and serious threat to Minnesota’s aquatic ecosystems. While there are a few instances of individual carp being found in Minnesota waters, including the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers, it is not presently believed that there are significant established populations in the state. In order to quickly and effectively respond to threats posed by Asian carp in the future, though, detailed information about the fish themselves is needed.
New invasive plant species continue to emerge in Minnesota and will pose ongoing threats to Minnesota’s economy, ecology, and environment if able to spread across the state. It is cheapest, easiest, and least harmful to find and control small populations of invasive plants before they become widespread.
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.