Global Exchange of Ideas Provides Universal Benefits
Current headlines suggesting a new "global environment" describe what scientists have known for a century—that natural resource and environmental issues are universal, and sharing ideas on a global scale makes sense.
College of Natural Resources researchers have a history of international interaction: in 1900 founder Samuel Green went to Europe to learn forestry practices and education, and one of the college's first graduates spent much of his career in the Phillipines. As early as the '30s, students from China, India, and Bolivia contributed to research investigations as part of their U of M graduate work.
When the University of Minnesota was selected to help restore Seoul National University after the Korean War, a U of M forestry professor served as chief adviser for the project.
Our researchers are more active than ever around the globe advancing the scientific foundations for reforestation practices, management for endangered and threatened species from the tigers of Nepal to the bears of Taiwan, use and protection of watersheds, use of natural areas for recreation, indicators of forest sustainability, cautious guidelines for genetic research of fish, forestry research protocols, and forest product consumption effects on tropical forests. University research guides the organization of public resource agencies and the design and implementation of natural resource policies and programs, including tax and fiscal incentive policies.
These far-ranging interests give the college a global impact. Four out of five faculty have international experience that gives students opportunities and encourages two-way global exchanges. Hundreds of students, faculty, and research administrators from around the world have visited the college and returned to their home countries with a better understanding of the scientific support necessary for wise resource use, management, and protection.
As 1937 U of M forestry graduate and Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug points out, research and education and sharing ideas is the only way to make positive, lasting change in the world.
Morocco Institution Building
Successful efforts to reforest barren land and other international natural resource management projects have benefited from a 30-year "institution building" program between the University of Minnesota and Morocco. U of M faculty helped Morocco establish a university focused on agriculture and natural resources: the Institut Agronomique et Veterinaire Hassan II (IAV). Today it is a respected education and research institution of 2,500 students.
More than 130 of IAV's faculty received their Ph.D.'s through the U of M. Over 200 students completed their master's degrees at Minnesota and more than 100 faculty from the U.S. made multiple trips to Morocco to direct their students' research.
Following World War II, University of Minnesota and Scandinavian foresters developed an exchange of ideas and faculty. Comparative research in programs and policy led to progressive laws and programs here in Minnesota. Americans are accustomed to setting aside lands for a single use such as wilderness or a park, but in more densely populated Europe, most forests are multipurpose. Within the city limits of Oslo, Norway, parks show evidence of logging near ski and hiking trails and lakes. Researchers found the Scandinavian public both more knowledgeable about and accepting of forest practices because they experience them first hand.
Sustainability in Rwanda
In developing countries, researchers examine how human domination and management has changed our understanding of diversity, fragmentation, and sustainability of forest resources. The pit shown at the top of the page saw in Rwanda is an example of indigenous knowledge and local technology that sustains the forest resource. Contrast this with a more mechanized, more economically efficient approach that causes greater environmental impact. We're developing management approaches that balance the competing social, ecological, and economic aspects of sustainability.
Carbon Mitigation in Mexico
Forests play an important role in the global carbon cycle. Since 1992, carbon sequestration laws permit industries in developed countries to pay land managers in undeveloped countries to protect and plant trees. University researchers evaluated new carbon mitigation projects in Chiapas, Mexico, from 1995 to 2001: goals shifted from improving the community to a sole focus on carbon sales by individual farmers. In a current study in a national park in Chiapas, graduate students are examining four-year-old plantings of native pines, comparing survival rates of trees planted by park service workers and community groups.
Forest Management Asia
In developing countries of Asia, basic food production often competes with wise forest management. For example, if fuel for cooking is needed, forests are decimated and replanting stymied. University researchers work toward long-term, practical solutions to problems of deforestation, erosion, water quality, and hunger.
Water Quality Studies
University of Minnesota scientists are actively investigating the many human factors that affect water quality. The research addresses aquatic ecosystems from a regional perspective, as opposed to traditional geopolitical boundaries that may ignore the interaction of water, geology, plant and animal life, soil, and other environmental realities. Some of the relationships investigated include forest harvesting, agricultural practices, urban development, climate, river basin classification, and ecological relationships between large and small rivers.
Locally, the St. Croix River process is a showpiece to the world of how to view and manage environmental issues collaboratively. Information for a Water Resources Master Plan involved many state and federal agencies. Up close, researchers investigated river sediment, snag habitat, and the invasion of exotic species. That was then expanded—using Geographic Information System technology—to a watershed view: adding housing, farmland, forests, roads, marinas, and industrial sites.
As society confronts choices about natural resources, U of M scientists provide essential information and a process for making informed decisions. The goal is to empower citizens and agencies to weigh alternatives intelligently and make defensible decisions, whether it's the St. Croix separating Minnesota and Wisconsin, Voyageurs National Park separating the U.S. and Canada, or the Nile River basin.