Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources: SE Minnesota Floodplain Forest Restoration


DNR forestry staff from southeastern Minnesota completed the Adaptation Workbook in the summer of 2015, and they intend to test their adaptation planting practices on several sites over the next few field seasons. Implementation of this project was delayed in 2016 due to a poor nut year in the local area for white oak, red oak, and walnut. If the nut crop is better in 2017, direct seeding on one or more sites will be a possbility. 

Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources staff completed the Adaptation Workbook at a workshop in 2015, and specifically considered the climate change risks and adaptation possibilities for floodplain forest restoration in southeastern Minnesota.

Project Area

For this project, the DNR is focused on floodplain forests in far southeastern Minnesota. The Mississippi River is the backbone of the Mississippi Flyway which serves as a major aerial highway for 60% of North America's birds. This unglaciated corner of Minnesota also features rolling topography and a relatively contiguous block of forest between Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. The DNR acquired several farms and woodlands in the 1960s in this part of the state, and they have been gradually letting farm fields go fallow and reforesting floodplain areas over time. This project will be implemented on state-owned land targeted for reforestation.

Management Goals

The management goal for the DNR in this part of the state is to re-forest areas with the floodplains of several rivers that run through the area. They intend to re-create a southern floodplain forest with a mix of suitable tree species over the next 5 years. 

Climate Change Impacts

A flooded riparian forest in southern Minnesota.
For this type of reforestation work, the DNR foresters considered many potential climate change impacts. In their view, the most important impacts include:
More frequent floods may cause more damage and scouring that usual, and may affect larger areas of the floodplain
Shifting timing of annual spring floods may affect the natural regeneration of native species and non-native species.
Increases in forest pests and pathogens

Challenges and Opportunities

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


Shifting precipitation and flood timing may make it more difficult for planted seedlings to survive
Fall and summer floods will make access to the sites more difficult


More marginal cropland may be enrolled into the Conservation Reserve Program if floods become more frequent - this could expand forested riparian corridors.

Adaptation Actions

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

Floodplain forest restoration
8.1. Use seeds, germplasm, and other genetic material from across a greater geographic range.
Collect nuts from Iowa or Missouri (the DNR currently allows seed collection from Iowa for projects in southern Minnesota)
9.2. Establish or encourage new mixes of native species.
9.3. Guide changes in species composition at early stages of stand development.
Plant a mix of floodplain-adapted species that are anticipated to do well under climate change, including red oak, white oak, and black walnut.
10.1 Promptly revegetate sites after disturbance.
Have planting stock ready in state nurseries to respond to near-term flood events.


Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:
Survival and growth of planted seedlings
Deer browse damage and competition in planted areas
Germination success in areas with direct seeding

Next Steps

The DNR will be selecting sites for these restoration projects for the next few years, and monitoring the nut crop in targeted seed collection areas. If the seed crop is good in 2017 for white oak, red oak, and black walnut, planting may proceed in the fall of 2017.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Stephen


Flooding, Lowland/ bottomland hardwoods, Planting, Restoration

Last Updated

Thursday, November 3, 2016