Climate, storm events, and mining in Minnesota forests

Climate, storm events, and mining in Minnesota forests Lee E. Frelich University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology [email protected] Boreal—cold...
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Climate, storm events, and mining in Minnesota forests Lee E. Frelich University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology [email protected]

Boreal—cold climate spruce, fir, birch and aspen common; pines and larches also widespread

Kmusser-Wikimedia commons

Heinselman used fire scars and tree ages to date fires since 1595

Photos: Bud Heinselman

Boreal regime with large crown fires: Heinselman’s area burn maps for 1864 and 1875

B.J. Stocks

Boreal jack pine, black spruce, aspen forest with high-intensity crown fire

Bud Heinselman

Photos: Bud Heinselman

Even-aged regeneration from serotinous cones, sprouts, buried seeds and wind blown seeds

Photo: Bud Heinselman

White and red pine with multiple cohorts

Surface fires and regeneration 9-years post fire Photos: Bud Heinselman, Eli Anoszko

What is the future of the boreal forest? Boreal forest, North Shore of Lake Superior, Tettegouche State Park, MN. Photo: Kablammo.

Fourier—discovered CO2 is a greenhouse Gas—1820s Arrhenius—1st projections of mean temp for Earth for 2x CO2—1896

Tyndall—showed that CO2 played a role in climate—1860s

Suess—proved that excess CO2 in the atmosphere came from fossil fuels—1950s

We have a massive 200-year body of scientific evidence on climate Climate responds to the laws of physics, not people’s opinions or beliefs

Climate change during the 20-21st Centuries is a reversal of a 5000 year natural trend towards a cooler climate. Marcott et al., 2013, Science.

Court records of cherry blossom time

Dates of cherry blossoming in Kyoto. 3.3 oC warming in recent times, 1.1 from urban heat island and 2.2 from regional climate warming From Primack et al 2009 Biological Conservation 142.

Change in summer (JJA) temperature Higher Emissions



Lower Emissions

Slide: Don Wuebbles


Minnesota will likely have the summer climate of NB and KS by the end of the century. This will cause northward range shifts of ca 300 miles for most tree species

Range Distributions of Temperate and Boreal Species Boreal Trees Temperate Trees Balsam fir

White spruce

Sugar maple

Paper birch

Red maple

Red oak

Balsam fir abundance: Current FIA compared to predictions for high emissions scenario Source: USDA Climate and Tree Atlas

Current FIA abundance

Predicted high scenario

Maple, spruce, or savanna? Biomes of Minnesota: • Dark green, boreal conifers with birch and aspen • Light green, deciduous oak and maple • Yellow: grassland

Mean summer and annual temperature change across the boreal-temperate ecotone in the Adirondacks NY (upper) and Minnesota (lower) Frelich, Peterson, Dovciak, Reich, Vucetich and Eisenhauer, 2012 Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 367: 2955-2961.

Boreal (spruce-fir-) interactions with temperate (maple-oak-basswood) forests

14 Sapling growth study sites From Fisichelli, Frelich and Reich, 2012, Global Change Biology 18: 3455-3463.

Growth measurements of boreal and temperate saplings 5 species Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) White spruce (Picea glauca) Red maple (Acer rubrum) Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) Red oak (Quercus rubra)

Radial Growth

Height Growth

Height growth in./year 6 4 2

Tipping point between temperate and boreal sapling growth is 64-65 degrees

balsam fir

red maple sugar maple

white spruce

63 64 65 66 Summer temperature (°F) ≈1,700 trees, northern Minnesota

Fisichelli, Reich, Frelich (2012)

Regional mean summer temperature

Height growth in./year 6 4 2


balsam fir

red maple sugar maple

white spruce

63 64 65 66 Summer temperature (°F) ≈1,700 trees, northern Minnesota

Fisichelli, Reich, Frelich (2012)

Regional mean summer temperature 2005-2015

Height growth in./year 6 4 2


balsam fir

red maple sugar maple

white spruce

63 64 65 66 Summer temperature (°F) ≈1,700 trees, northern Minnesota

Fisichelli, Reich, Frelich (2012)

Regional mean summer temperature 2005-2015 ≈2025-40

Height growth in./year 6 4 2


balsam fir

red maple sugar maple

white spruce

63 64 65 66 Summer temperature (°F) ≈1,700 trees, northern Minnesota

Fisichelli, Reich, Frelich (2012)

Local transitions in warm and cool summer climates



Temperate tree species are invading boreal forests, but have not had time to replace boreal species and it is not yet warm enough to kill boreal forest— therefore mixed forest or ecotone is becoming wider Fisichelli, Frelich and Reich. 2014. Ecography 37: 152-161. Photo, Duluth News Tribune

Temperate forest invasion in the BWCAW: Red oak in boreal forest understory (upper right); Red maple replacing black spruce and birch-spruce forest (Upper left and lower left, respectively). Photos: Lee Frelich, Dave Hansen

Wind storms in northern MN

Layne Kennedy

Summer derecho frequency (#observed in 22 years)

From: R.H. Johns and J.S. Evans:

Modeling potential for future severe storm frequency can be difficult— can ‘climate migration’ be useful? There is a 7-fold increase from the boreal forest to southern MN

From: R.H. Johns and J.S. Evans:

The BWCAW derecho, July 4, 1999: a combination bow echo and supercell derecho that crossed half of North America

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Before and after the 1999 blowdown

Wind does selective weeding of the forest

Photos: Dave Hansen

Understory invasion by temperate saplings followed by wind =

Instant conversion from boreal to temperate forest

Fire in wind thrown timber results in a different successional pathway for the forest. Example: Cavity Lake fire. Progression map—July 2006

Start of Cavity Lake Fire and escape by University of MN Post-Doc Roy Rich

Photos: Alex Reich

Roy Rich

Cavity Lake Fire making its big run on July 16, 2006

Cavity Lake Burn, Seagull Lake, July 2007.

Photo: Dave Hansen, University of MN

University of MN Forest Elves on the way to a plot deep in the wilderness

Five years post fire birch forest on Three Mile Island, Seagull Lake Photo: Dave Hansen, University of MN

The Prairie-forest border of Minnesota: • Precipitation – Evapotranspiration was most important factor • Transition from grass to forest was abrupt across a gradual climate gradient

From: Danz, Reich, Frelich and Niemi, 2011, Ecography 34: 402-414; Danz, Frelich, Reich and Niemi, 2013, Journal of Vegetation Science, 24: 1129-1140

Forest cover of central North America (green). Prairie-forest border (black line), and arrows showing the border moving 300 miles to the northeast by 2100 for a business as usual climate change scenario. Modified from Frelich and Reich 2010, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

The BWCAW will be at the prairie-forest border!

Drought, insect infestation, wind and fire will accompany climate change

Photos above and below: Dave Hansen

Global warming or Global worming? Earthworms are ecosystem engineers that alter soil structure, reduce water and nutrient availability, with large reductions in tree growth rate.

They also warm the soil!

Base of balsam fir, receding forest floor making trees more sensitive to warming climate and drought, BWCAW, July 2011. Photo: Doug Wallace


Deer and drought causing failure of sugar maple reproduction. Example: Sylvania Wilderness from 1990 to 2006 From Salk, Frelich, Sugita, Calcote, Ferrari and Montgomery. 2011. Forest Ecology and Management 261: 1998-2006.


Global warming and phenology: •Warming is greater at the poles than equator •Lesser temperature contrast between equator and poles •Weaker westerlies •More pronounced troughs and ridges in the jet stream •More cold and warm temperature anomalies lasting several weeks

March 2012, extreme early spring, with temperatures equal to projections for 2090

Magnolia in bloom, St.Paul MN, March 27, 2012. Photo: Jenna Williams

Winter browning of spruce in Ontario, May 2012. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

Multiple factors working to reinforce climate change at the prairie-forest border Frelich and Reich, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 8: 371-378.

Warmer climate, Longer growing season

More frequent and longer droughts

CO2 fertilization Warmer and drier soil

Exotic earthworms spread faster

More deer

More fires

More wind storms

Pests and diseases spread faster

Lower soil nutrient status

N deposition

Kill seedlings and prevent reproduction

Kill adult trees and lack of replacement


Climate analog: Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness today (blue star) and by end of the 21st Century (orange star)

Boreal forest, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, MN. Photo, Eli Anoszko

Lake and rocky island scenery, Gneiss Outcrops Natural Area (photo Dave Hansen, UMN)

Some examples of potential changes in northern Minnesota wildlife with a warmer climate

Painting by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Ron Moen



Black Backed Woodpecker Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Bobcat Deer

Photo: David Augustine

Photo: Norbert Rosing

Photo: Ken Thomas

Potential Ecological Impacts of Cu-Ni Mining in the BWCAW Watershed

Lee E. Frelich Director, The University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology [email protected]

Geographical Context

Hydrology – Acid Mine Drainage •

Sulfide + air + water = acid mine drainage (AMD) = sulfuric acid, heavy metals (Hg, Cu) and sulfates

Sulfide levels at some Twin Metals deposits higher than the acid producing rock left behind at Dunka Mine

Seepage through waste could reach the surface within 1 year (from upper levels) or continue for 100+ years (from deeper levels)

All waste dumps leak, whether lined or capped

Contamination threat: High metals concentration in seepage Mercury problems increased by acid conditions and sulfate Poor buffering in surrounding waters

“It is not a question of whether, but when a leak will occur that will have major impacts on the water quality of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.”

Hydrology – Path of Pollution

Ecological Impacts to Aquatic ecosystems From report prepared by Lawrence Baker, PhD Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, University of Minnesota

Mine Drainage—effects of low pH and sulfate Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) • Waters have a low buffering capacity—potential decline of pH from AMD • Fish—as pH declines from 6 to 5, many fish species are lost Lake trout and Walleye lost Largemouth bass and yellow perch remain • Cascading effects on other wildlife such as loons that depend on fish

Lake trout, Michigan Radio

Yellow perch,

Ecological Impacts to Aquatic ecosystems, Continued Sulfate • Eutrophication—decrease in water clarity due to excess Phosphorus and resulting growth of algae • Wild rice—some sulfate naturally present already in water, any addition could decrease viability of wild rice • Mercury—sulfate leads to conversion of Hg (methylation) to a form that can be incorporated in fish and bioaccumulation through up the food chain in wildlife and humans

Wild Rice in the BWCAW BWCAW com, Tom T.

Ohio Wesleyan University

Ecological Impacts to Terrestrial and Forest Ecosystems From report prepared by Lee E. Frelich

Effects of mining activities, AMD, and acid dust on forest ecosystems • Accelerated ecosystem aging (ecosystem retrogression to an acidic, nutrient poor state) • Calcium loss and Aluminum toxicity • Disruption of mycorrhizas • Fragmentation

Ecosystem aging. Photos, MNDNR, MPR

Many types of wetland and upland forests are intimately connected Photos, Boundarywatersguideservice, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness/Jim Brandenburg, Quetico Provincial Park, MPR

Ecological Impacts to Terrestrial and Forest Ecosystems, —Fragmentation effects Wildlife travel corridors Moose replaced by deer

Photo: Reuters

Photo: David Augustine

Earthworm damage, Photo Dave Chaffin

Photo: Ron Moen

Spread of ‘weedy’ native species, e.g. red maple. Photo, Dave Hansen

Wood-Rill Foundation, Bruce and Ruth Dayton, Wally and Mary Lee Dayton, Jonathon Bishop, John and Charlotte Parish

Questions? Lee Frelich and clones at work during Ham Lake Fire, Seagull Lake, May 6, 2007. Layne Kennedy

Transition from boreal to temperate forest with novel filters on composition, such as earthworms and high deer populations Historic conditions Frelich, Peterson, Dovciak, Reich, Vucetich and Eisenhauer, 2012 Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 367: 2955-2961.

Photos: Good oak ecological services, Ben Kimball

Future temperate forests that replace the boreal will not be like the historic sugar maple forests we are used to Photos: Bob Leverett (upper) Pchgorman (lower)

Invasion was most strongly related to campsites, portage trails, and motorboat lakes

Biome map of Minnesota by MNDOT

Boreal (spruce-fir-jack pine) forests of the north will be replaced by: • Red maple now & other hardwoods later on deeper soils • Oak savanna on shallow or sandy soils • Minnesota is likely to lose the boreal biome and ca 1/3 of our native species

Layne Kennedy

View of Ham Lake Fire from Seagull Palisades—midnight May 6, 2007. Layne Kennedy (left) and Gus Axelson (Right).

Ham Lake burn, 3 months later. Photo: Dave Hansen.

Ecological Impacts to Terrestrial and Forest Ecosystems, 5 Continued 3 4





pH, O2 and N availability

Arrangement of lowland forest communities along an environmental gradient in acidity: 1. Bog 2. Stunted black spruce 3. Black spruce (forested bog) 4. Black spruce-tamarack (forested poor fen) 5. Tamarack (forested fen) 6. Cedar-tamarack (forested fen) 7. Cedar-fir-tamarack-ash (forested rich fen)

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