Mississippi Park Connection and the National Park Service: Gravel Bed Tree Nursery


The gravel bed was constructed in 2016, and trees will be planted in Spring 2017.

Mississippi Park Connection and the National Park Service are leading a project that coordinates volunteers to work on a gravel bed tree nursery project at the Science Museum of Minnesota’s St. Paul, MN, campus. The gravel bed nursery will feature trees that are adapted to climate change conditions in the Twin Cities, and will eventually be planted in St. Paul along the Mississippi River.

Project Area

The gravel bed nursery is being constructed in front of the Science Museum of Minnesota on Kellogg Blvd. in downtown St. Paul, MN. Species grown there will be planted along the Mississippi River throughout the city of St. Paul. Many will be planted along Shepard Rd. near Upper Landing Park in Saint Paul, within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. .

Management Goals

The goal for the project is to install and demonstrate a successful, temporary gravel bed nursery on Kellogg Blvd. in Saint Paul in front of the Science Museum, using trees that are likely to survive in a changing climate. Growing trees in gravel prior to planting can help develop a stronger root structure, and helps ensure trees are planted at the right depth because the root line is more visible. To demonstrate the benefits of the gravel bed nursery, the project will provide educational and interpretive signage and information about the gravel bed nursery to the public, provide tours of the site to interested parties, and host volunteer events in partnership with Minnesota GreenCorps and the 2017 National Adaptation Forum.

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
increase in heavy precipitation events and related flooding
changes in habitat suitability for native trees
decreases in precipitation later in the growing season

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:


finding trees that are adapted to future conditions and can also tolerate local site conditions
additional watering of the gravel bed may be needed to compensate for summer dryness
the gravel bed will be located in downtown St. Paul, which may be warmer than surrounding areas due to the heat island effect


experimenting with incorporating new species
engaging the public who wouldn’t otherwise seek out information about climate change resilience
can expand the canopy diversity by incorporating a wider range of species

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project, including:

Strategy 3: Reduce the risk and long-term impacts of severe disturbances.
Using gravel beds to improve root structure to reduce vulnerability to drought and wind damage.
Strategy 9: Facilitate community adjustments through species transitions.
Planting climate adapted species such as Kentucky coffeetree, chinkapin oak, disease-resistant elm, buckeye, tulip poplar, American sycamore, black oak, and black maple, tupelo, and bald cypress.
10.1 Promptly revegetate sites after disturbance.
planting new trees in natural areas where there were losses from emerald ash borer


Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:
Informal monitoring to assess the health of planted trees.

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

Front view of science museum

Next Steps

The agreement for the project ends after one year, but the collaborators are hoping to extend the life of the gravel bed program past the initial year outlined in the grant. Additionally, they are hoping to use gravel bed fostered trees to help reforest natural areas impacted by EAB.

Learn More


Insect pests, Lowland/ bottomland hardwoods, Planting, Urban

Last Updated

Monday, February 6, 2017