Building Resilience in the Floodplain Forest

Daniel Wattenhofer, Urban Forestry Specialist and Greencorps Member, Mississippi Park Connection

Dan Wattenhofer examining an ash stump affected by emerald ash borer

Ash trees are one of Minnesota’s most abundant natural resources. Approximately 1 billion ash trees can be found across Minnesota, which is more than any other state in the U.S. Within Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, ash trees are present from the floodplain to the oak savanna. It is because our ash trees can be found in such numbers across the park that we are under threat from Emerald ash borer (EAB). There is a nearly 99% mortality rate of ash to EAB, and EAB is projected to exponentially increase in the state of Minnesota in coming years.

Ash tree in Saint Paul

Combined with the pressures of climate change, EAB, and other invasives, great strain is being put upon our forests here in the park. In a few years time, our forests could look dramatically different. But that certainly doesn’t mean that all hope is lost; here at Mississippi Park Connection, we’re working to identify vulnerable areas within the park and work to make sure they stay forested. By planting species that are native to parts of southern Minnesota, we are ensuring that the species we plant won’t be edged out of their habitat as a result of future climate change.

Planting trees like Shagbark Hickory, Kentucky Coffeetree, and Northern Catalpa, which are more southern adapted species, will also serve to bolster the resilience of our floodplain forest and ensure that it will be around for future generations to enjoy. There are many ways to help us build resilience in our forest. From simple things like watering trees and not transporting firewood, to helping to clear invasives that compete for resources with native plants, building resilience is a great way to get outside and help build a better, more healthy ecosystem, right in your backyard.

Click here to learn more about Mississippi Park Connection's efforts to reforest the urban floodplain.