Impacts of Climate Change

forest with a section of dead trees

Climate change is impacting Minnesota's wildlife, plants, waters, historic resources, infrastructure, and available outdoor recreation activities.

Minnesota already is experiencing a range of impacts from climate change. You may have observed some of these impacts yourself, but some are less obvious than others.

Eastern Larch Beetle Impacts on Tamarack

eastern larch beetle on the park of a tamarack tree

Minnesota is home to an estimated 1 million+ acres of tamarack forest. Eastern larch beetles are native pests of tamarack trees that historically have not caused much of a problem for them. Adult females burrow beneath the bark of tamarack trees and lay their eggs. The larvae hatch and meander through the trees' living layer of tissue. This can disrupt the flow of nutrients if the tunnels become too numerous. Female beetles can produce two or three broods per summer. Normally, the young overwinter in the trees, then emerge in the spring and begin reproduction.

Harsh winters historically have kept the number of Eastern larch beetles in check, by halting their reproduction and killing some of the population during cold months. Recent research from the University of Minnesota has shown longer growing seasons and higher winter temperatures are allowing for faster brood development and greater survival throughout winter. These changes have led to a population boom of the insect. Minnesota has lost nearly 300,000 acres of tamarack to the Eastern larch beetle in recent years. What once was a natural cycle has been disrupted by the changing climate, and tamarack are on the losing end.

More Bass, Fewer Walleye

man holding a bass and walleye

Walleye are one of the most popular game fish in Minnesota and are found in approximately 1,700 of Minnesota’s nearly 12,000 lakes. Walleye favor cooler waters than some of Minnesota’s other fish, such as largemouth bass. Higher temperatures may negatively impact walleye populations, while warm water fish like bass may do better. Research from Wisconsin suggests warming temperatures lead to a loss of natural walleye reproduction and increased largemouth bass abundance. As the climate continues to warm, walleye are expected to persist in larger, colder lakes, and fade from smaller, warmer lakes where largemouth bass will continue to thrive. See Climate Change and Freshwater Fish for additional resources.

This may mean a "new normal" for Minnesota’s fishing enthusiasts in the future, with fewer opportunities for walleye fishing but increasing opportunities for bass fishing.

Winter Recreation

two boys sitting in the snow, wearing snowshoes

Minnesota enjoys a rich winter outdoor recreation tradition that includes pastimes such as ice fishing, cross-country and alpine skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and dog sledding.

Climate change is affecting the availability of winter recreation in Minnesota, and is projected to continue to do so. Fast-warming winters are decreasing the number of days with reliable snow cover and decreasing the likelihood of reliable lake ice. Lake Osakis – an average-sized lake in central Minnesota – experiences "ice out" more than a week earlier now than it did in the 1940s. Early loss of ice and poor snow cover may negatively affect Minnesota’s tourism, recreation, and hospitality industries during the winter. A 2013 survey by Explore Minnesota of businesses in the Minnesota lodging industry showed a majority of respondents felt their wintertime business success was at least somewhat dependent on good snow and ice conditions for their guests’ recreation.

Resources