Trees for Minnesota

The Forest Assisted Migration Project promises millions of trees to help fight a warming climate.

The University of Minnesota Duluth hosted a presentation on June 9, 2021 about a massive tree-planting project. Faculty, staff, students, and partners detailed a long-term project that will help farmers in northern Minnesota grow climate-smart trees for restoration. The research group discussed the preliminary steps in the process: seed collection, seed cleaning, seed planting, seed transplantation, and taking seedling measurements. 

A student planting a small tree in a container, in a science lab.

Mady Larson, UMD Biochemistry student, gave a demonstration about transplanting seedlings. The next stage for the plants is to become acclimated to the outdoors before being planted in a Minnesota forest area.

Named the Forest Assisted Migration Project, this grant-financed collaboration led by Julie Etterson, professor of biology at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and others, is an effort to provide the types of tree seedlings northern forests will need to survive in a warmer climate.

“The five-year goal began with detailed research in order to find the right trees to grow in our warming climate,” says Etterson. Trees, such as white pine, red oak, white oak, silver birch, and bur oak were identified in the team’s research. The first batch of seedlings have been planted and cared for by area farmers and will soon be large enough to plant in the forests of Northeastern Minnesota.

The Nature Conservancy, which has been part of an effort to replant Minnesota’s forests for several years, has committed to buying 40,000 of the seedlings. Minnesota Power will also purchase some of the trees. They have an ongoing project to plant millions of white pine, red pine, jack pine, and spruce trees on company land in northern Minnesota.

Other areas are joining the tree planting effort including the Aitkin, Koochiching, and Lake County Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the Carlton County Forestry.

Additional partners on this UMD project include the Northeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, the U of M Institute on the Environment at UMD and in the Twin Cities, the University of Minnesota Extension, and the Greater Mille Lacs Chapter of the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota.

About the UMD Department of Biology

Photo above: Nouchi Yang, UMD Biology Student; Meredith Cornett from The Nature Conservancy; Mady Larson, UMD Biochemistry student; Julie Etterson, UMD Professor and Head of Department of Biology; Joel Bransky from the Northeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, and Matthew Jahnke, UMD Greenhouse Manager.