Study Shows Midwest’s Resilience in Changing Climate

With climate change becoming a larger and larger headline, many wonder what their part of the Midwestern landscape could look like in 20 years. A new study by The Nature Conservancy aims to answer some of those questions and show what can be done to help areas adapt.

Meredith Cornett – director of conservation science for The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota – says major factors that determine an area’s adaptability are the number of local micro-climates, and the barriers separating them. The more barriers, the less resilience.

“If there aren’t a lot of major barriers, like a six-lane highway, between where you’re standing and the next spot over,” says Cornett, “then you have a much better chance of being able to move and find new climate niches.”

Some Areas “Highly Resilient” To Climate Change

So, she says it makes sense that a number of natural areas and state parks are considered “highly resilient” to climate change. In Minnesota, that includes Tettegouche State Park in the North Shore, and Itasca State Park at the headwaters of the Mississippi.

Of course, that doesn’t mean urban areas aren’t resilient. Cornett says there are sections of big cities that are well-connected to other micro-climates. And there also are steps that can be taken to increase those areas’ adaptability to climate change.

“Either through weed management or through prescribed fire, those types of things, to really help it make the transition to future climate conditions,” says Cornett.

The study is ongoing, and Cornett expects the team of 60 scientists to have a full map of the United States’ climate-change resilience within the next three years.

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