Forests are on the move across North America. Scientists are keeping a special eye on Minnesota, where coniferous boreal forests (taiga) dominate the northern part of the state, with deciduous forests in the middle of the state, and prairie in the south. Changes in climate are pushing out the boreal forest -- Minnesota's famous North Woods -- with the deciduous forest and the prairie both expanding north.
"[Lee Frelich, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Forest Ecology] thinks the boreal forests that soak up huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere could disappear entirely, taking with them a third of the state's native species of trees, flowers, birds and pollinators. In an extreme scenario, he has warned, prairie land could expand across much of Minnesota by 2100, upending everything from the timber industry to tourism to the state’s very identity. 'Minnesota could become the new Kansas,' he said. 'We have a perfectly good Kansas now. We don't need a second one in Minnesota.' ... A Washington Post analysis of historical temperature data found that seven counties in Minnesota [including the county that contains the headwaters of the Mississippi River] have warmed more than 2 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century — about twice the global average. Winters here have warmed even faster, with 59 of the state's counties — about two thirds — eclipsing the 2C threshold during the months of December through February. ... That fast change contributes to some 'zombie' forests in parts of the state, said his colleague Stephen Handler, a Forest Service climate change specialist. 'There are places where climate change is already influencing forest regeneration,' Handler said. 'Big, healthy trees overhead — but on the forest floor, no baby trees to fill in the gap.'"
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