Great Lakes Minnesota Recreation

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Climate Change in Minnesota
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Climate Change Impacts:
Recreation and Tourism

Tourism is one of Minnesota's top income-producing industries. Birders, boaters, hikers, hunters, and winter sports enthusiasts bring nearly $10 billion into the state and Minnesota boosts more duck hunters and more fishing licenses sold per capita than any other state. Climate change will affect the type of recreational experiences available in Minnesota.

The most certain impacts of climate change will be on winter sport activities. Communities and businesses dependent on revenues from winter sports could be hard hit. Some of these communities and businesses, however, may make up the loss by expanding warm weather tourism and recreation. Among the potential impacts of climate change with implications for recreation and tourism in Minnesota are:

  • A Change in the Distribution of Fish Species
    As waters warm, the types of fish species that inhabit them will likely change. Increases or declines of preferred catch will affect anglers on Lake Superior and inland lakes. The range of warm-water fish, such as bluegill and smallmouth bass, are likely to expand northward, while cold-water species such as lake trout and brook trout, and even some cool-water fish such as walleye, may decline dramatically.

  • A Loss of Bird Diversity
    A warming climate will drive complex changes in terrestrial and aquatic habitat, quality and timing of food resources, and other factors that are likely to diminish bird diversity in Minnesota. Loss or degradation of existing habitat due to a changing climate will likely compound the negative consequences of previous habitat loss, such as the loss of over half of the original prairie pothole habitat in the US. Crossbills, siskins, grosbeaks, and breeding warbles are particularly vulnerable to shifts of boreal forest species. Migratory songbirds may be harmed if food is scarce along their route as a result of earlier leaf-out and insect emergence. Waterfowl are also expected to decline. Some resident species, such as northern cardinals, chickadees, and titmice, may benefit if they are able to breed earlier and raise more broods within a season. These impacts will affect Minnesota's multimillion dollar birdwatching and hunting industries.

  • A Degraded Winter Recreation Experience
    Skiiers in Voyageur National ParkWarmer winters mean trouble for Minnesota, where winter recreation has long been an integral part of people's sense of place. The communities and businesses dependent on revenues from cross-country or downhill skiing, snowmobiling, and, especially, ice fishing, could be hard-hit.

  • An Expanded Summer Recreation Season, with Risks
    As temperatures warm further, extreme heat, extreme storms, elevated ozone levels, and possible increases in risk from insect-and waterborne diseases will affect beachgoers and boaters, and may involve some restrictions and require behavioral adjustments by tourists and local outdoor enthusiasts.

Photo Credits:
Loon -- US Fish and Wildlife Service, Art Weber.
Skiiers in Voyageurs National Park -- National Park Service Digital Image Archives
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