BAXTER - While the lakes area is in the grip of a relentless deep freeze, it may not feel like global warming or climate change is really an issue.
Michael Larson, a research biologist with the DNR, understands that response. But he said climate change is not just about heat as it creates dramatic temperatures extremes on both ends of the scale.
Larson spoke Thursday at the Brainerd Area Environmental Learning Network's session on climate change and observed and predicted effects on wildlife. Larson is a wildlife research scientist for the DNR and an adjunct assistant professor in the department of fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology at the University of Minnesota.
"We're looking at rates of climate change we've never experienced before," Larson told the group gathered at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency offices in Baxter. "I think we are headed for unprecedented change."
"There are things we can do to change our future," Larson said. "Despite the negative aspects climate change is likely to bring there will be opportunities for both improving how we as wildlifers work but how human society interacts with natural systems."
While there are changes coming in the next 50 to 100 years that cannot be stopped, Larson said that doesn't mean people are powerless.
"There are things we can do to change our future," he said. "Despite the negative aspects climate change is likely to bring there will be opportunities for both improving how we as wildlifers work but how human society interacts with natural systems."
He listed three options for species: adapt, migrate or die. Larson said wildlife management isn't the only affected area. Forests are another topic of interest along with fish habitat. Larson said iconic species who are losers in climate change include the polar bear as pack ice is lost. Closer to home, walleye habitat is expected to shrink particularly in shallow lakes.
With climate change, Larson said species are predicted to migrate north driven by a shift in rainfall. A focus is expected to be on migration corridors in what is a human dominated landscape. Assisted migration may be needed to save some species from extinction, Larson said.
"Some species will win and some species will lose," Larson said.
Minnesotans are accustomed to major shifts where temperatures run extremes even in a single day or summer to winter. With global average temperatures changing a few degrees, even 10 degrees, Larson said is hard to put into perspective for people that those minor changes will have a huge impact over time.
In Minnesota by 2100, Larson said the projections are for an increase of 6-19 degrees in the winter mean temperature. The mean, for example, is created by adding a series of daily temperatures and dividing the sum by the number of days measured. Projections call for a Minnesota summer mean temperature that will increase by 7-16 degrees. Projections also call for a 15 to 40 percent increase in winter precipitation and a 15 percent decrease in summer precipitation.
"So it will be substantially drier in the summer in the future," Larson said.
"I encourage people to try to remain optimistic," Larson said. "There are some things we can do now to influence what the future is like. So there is no reason to throw up our hands and give up. There is reason for optimism about the future. It will be different, but it doesn't mean it has to be bad."
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