The science and art of creating sustainable natural resources is closely linked to two of Minnesota’s important economic sectors: tourism and forest products. As climate, technology and economics change, so do their effects on northern forests.
The ROCs provide an ideal location for on-site forestry research.
Analytical methods help forest planners explore options for integrating sustainable production with ecological impact. Developing effective broad-scale forest policy analysis and site-specific detailed harvest plans requires attention to biodiversity, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration and new timber uses, as well as simply sustaining existing forest industries already heavily invested in Minnesota’s rural economies. Much of northern Minnesota’s rural economy depends on productive use of the forest.
Research at the centers has helped develop new methods for addressing forest management over time. These methods were applied in the forest planning for the Chippewa and Superior National Forests in Minnesota. Another study helped demonstrate potential gains from collaborative planning between large public ownerships.
Natural resource technology has become an important research tool allowing researchers to collect long-term forest inventory data. Landsat imagery, LiDAR and aerial photography allow researchers to learn how Minnesota forests are changing over time, which helps inform conservation efforts and forest planning to ensure sustainability of Minnesota’s forest resources.
Research and outreach center researchers have worked with rural landowners and managers to show the positive effects of agroforestry on the environment and agricultural productivity and profitability.
Agriculture and forestry can coexist, providing diversity in cropping systems and the rural landscape.
Research is centered on two broad themes: improving the productivity of Minnesota’s forests and protecting the genetic variation of wild tree populations. For example, Minnesota’s native white pine is very susceptible to an exotic blister rust disease. Scientists are now breeding new varieties to increase the rust resistance of this ecologically and economically important species.
Our native ash trees are threatened by the exotic pest emerald ash borer, which was first identified in Minnesota in 2009. By anticipating its arrival, a University of Minnesota research and Extension group was the first to collect black, green and white ash seed to preserve the natural genetic variation of these species in advance of emerald ash borer. As sampling continues, molecular marker technology is used to identify the methodology that gathers the most genetic variation with the least investment of time and resources.