The focus of this research theme is to better understand the earth’s interconnected environmental systems (vegetation, climate, water, and soil). Our research is motivated by questions about the character of this environment and why and how it changes. What causes drought and what are its impacts on local and regional climate, vegetation, and water resources? How do past human activities and/or environmental processes work together to produce the physical landscapes we observe today? What are the implications of future climate change for the environmental resources of Minnesota and the world?
Geographers at Minnesota are tackling these questions using a variety of approaches. We use records of past climate and vegetation change from tree rings, fossil pollen, and lake-level histories to help us better understand events such as drought or fire and to unravel the probable causes of those events. Much of this work focuses on century-to-millennial time scales but we also use climate and tree-ring data, air photos, and land-survey records to answer questions about environmental change over the more recent past. Our work also includes studies of climate variability and change over the period of historic (climate) records, primarily through statistical and numerical modeling. Understanding the causes and impacts of environmental change in the distant or recent past helps to shed light on the possible impacts of future changes, whether these changes are or are not human-induced.
If this genre of research interests you, shoot an email to any of our faculty who work in this area—they are more than happy to work with you and answer your questions!
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