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Individual Highlight

For the Rare Prairie Orchid, Science is Making Climate Change Local

Photo of Because the small white lady’s slipper tends to occur in isolated populations within a highly fragmented landscape, opportunities for dispersal to new sites and inter-population genetic exchange are minimal, which may limit its capacity to adapt to climate. Justin Meissen, University of Minnesota.Because the small white lady’s slipper tends to occur in isolated populations within a highly fragmented landscape, opportunities for dispersal to new sites and inter-population genetic exchange are minimal, which may limit its capacity to adapt to climate. Justin Meissen, University of Minnesota.Snapshot : Forest Service researchers, along with their research partners from the University of Minnesota, are helping land managers answer key questions about how to apply large-scale climate change information to very precise habitat.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Snyder, StephanieHaight, Robert G.
Research Location : Expandere Wildlife Management Area, Cottonwood County, Minn.
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1034

Summary

Knowing how climate change may affect an entire region is only marginally useful to land managers trying to preserve the small white lady’s slipper, a once-abundant orchid that today is found in small “postage stamp” prairie fragments as little as 10 acres in Minnesota and a few other Midwestern states. Regional climate change projections indicate higher temperatures and more variable precipitation, but resulting changes in soil water availability will depend on local features: soil texture and drainage, vegetative cover, topography, and hydrology. Forest Service scientists worked with University of Minnesota scientists to create a dynamic model that accounts for site-level features when projecting the potential impacts of different climate change scenarios. The model provides management strategies specific to the location and the plant itself, which aids decision-making. For the small white lady’s slipper, such decisions may include whether to prioritize invasive species management, protect critical groundwater recharge areas, or increase monitoring intensity to detect population responses to drought and other environmental stressors. Such site-specific strategies give conservation planners and practitioners information they need to make sound, on-the-ground management decisions in the face of climate change. The model has the potential to benefit other rare species with very limited ranges.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • University of Minnesota

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