Biology is the study of life. The biological systems of a watershed encompass the plant and animal species that are present in the stream, the riparian lands, and the contributing watershed.
These living organisms interact to create a flow of materials and energy essential for healthy natural communities to thrive. These biotic interactions also create ecosystem services that are important to our human communities. These include:
Healthy ecosystems also provide cultural benefits, such as religious, aesthetic, or recreational opportunities that humans value.
The diversity of Minnesota's biological systems is enhanced by its location near the geographic center of the continent where three major biomes meet, the prairie, boreal forest and eastern deciduous forest. As an example of this diversity, over 2,000 known native wildlife species exist in Minnesota.
However, approximately sixteen percent (346) of these wildlife species have been identified as "species in greatest conservation need" (SGCN) because they are rare, declining or vulnerable (MN DNR, Wildlife Action Plan 2015-2025, pg 19). The loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitats are important drivers of SGCN population declines. These habitat stressors will be excerbated by a changing climate (WAP, pg 28).
Some examples of threats to biological health include:
Explore the Biology Health Scores to see a series of index values that show health trends for biological systems in Minnesota.