Minneapolis / Saint Paul Long-term Ecological Research

Research Issue

[photo:] Minneapolis skyline at dusk with trees in the foreground.

Built around the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul are home to 800,000 people. Known locally as the “Twin Cities,” the cities are known for their distinct character, nationally recognized urban forests, and bicycle trails. The Twin Cities are also known for legacy industrial pollution, habitat loss to housing development, and social inequity. In May 2020, protests both peaceful and violent followed the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

Together, the challenges and the amenities presented by the Twin Cities offer research opportunities in many areas. The Twin Cities was selected as one of just two urban long-term ecological research (LTER) site in the United States; the other located in Phoenix, AZ which was established in 1997. With the University of Minnesota serving as the lead institution in the LTER, the USDA Forest Service is a partner along with the University of St. Thomas and The Nature Conservancy.

The NSF grant contributes $1.2 million annually through February 2027 for research examining how turmoil, socioeconomic disparities, pollution, habitat loss and climate change interact to affect the environment in the Twin Cities.

Our Research

As part of the Minneapolis/Saint Paul LTER, initial Forest Service research will investigate adapting urban forests for climate change, opportunities for increasing pollinator habitat and conservation, and understanding distributions of urban tree canopy.

An existing Adaptive Climate Change for Silviculture (ACCS) project located in the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in Saint Paul will receive funding as part of the LTER. Established at Crosby Farm Regional Park, the study is exploring impacts of adaptation strategies on forest productivity, wildlife populations, forest health, ecosystem processes, and biodiversity over time.

Expected Outcomes

Research developed through the urban LTER will help land managers and planners discover new approaches to ensuring sustainable environmental health and equity in access to all the benefits of a healthy environment.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

  • Sarah Hobbie, University of Minnesota
  • Susannah Lerman, Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Research Ecologist
  • Leslie Brandt, Eastern Region, USDA Forest Service, Climate Change Specialist

Research Partners

  • Last modified: March 16, 2021