Lake surrounded by forest.

2018 Research Highlights: Natural Resource Management

Research in this program area focuses on protecting the diversity of Minnesota's forests, wildlife and native plants as environmental conditions continue to shift in the state. 2018 highlights include: 

  • A new study found habitat fragmentation of landscapes and habitat loss could put wildlife species at risk of extinction by promoting disease outbreaks. These findings run counter to predictions from previous disease transmission models. 
  • Researchers developed a new model-based estimator of population abundance that can monitor wildlife populations. They used the model to estimate trends in Minnesota moose population size overtime and showed moose declined from 2009 to 2015 before stabilizing in more recent years.
  • A survey of Minnesota's logging business owners' awareness and needs related to invasive forest plants found respondents were somewhat (48 percent) or slightly (40 percent) knowledgeable about invasive forest plants. Of the 15 invasive forest plants included in the survey, approximately half of the respondents could identify three of the species: buckthorn, reed canary grass and honeysuckle, and 89 percent could identify thistle. 
  • A study looking at the spread rate of various invasive insects found, in the global analysis, voltinism was the most significant predictor of spread rates. Insects with more than one generation per year spread faster than those with one or fewer generations. 
  • For the first time in nearly 200 years, bison are roaming over 200 acres of oak savannah at the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. Researchers released 32 bison as part of the ongoing effort to restore the oak savannah ecosystem inside the reserve. For the next three years, the bison will roam and graze on grasses that are completing with the oak trees.
  • Researchers in the BioTechnology Institute are developing a sustainable method to remove toxic metals, such as arsenic, from contaminated soil using plants paired with a soil microbe that incorporates the toxins into the plant tissue. Plants can then be harvested and burned to collect the metal instead of the much more costly methods of removing soil and storing it long term.
  • An equine study on forage preference found teff is more suitable for horses with low-energy demands or horses prone to metabolic concerns. On the other hand, alfalfa and perennial ryegrass have the capability of meeting nutritional requirements of horses with elevated nutritional needs.