Percent of riverfront that is parkland with natural habitat
The Mississippi River has long been an essential corridor for the movement of wildlife through our region, and indeed, migrations across our hemisphere. While some wildlife can exist in mowed fields of turf grass, the more natural, unmowed meadows and woodlands along the river generally are far richer habitat for a more diverse range of wildlife (footnote 1).
For this measure, we are making a very basic and coarse distinction between parkland that can function substantially as habitat, and parkland that functions largely as an activity space for humans (frequently to the detriment of wildlife). Even within the parkland that we are classifying as potential habitat, there is a wide range of quality. Some of this habitat will be fragmented and dominated by invasive species. Other areas are being actively restored to resemble pre-settlement conditions and managed to high standards. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources maintains much richer data on land cover; however, this data is only very occasionally updated, and thus would not easily allow us to track year-to-year change.
The data underscores that parkland with natural habitat is three times more prevalent in the Lower Gorge than the Upper River (see below). This has implications for the ability of wildlife to move and thrive in the corridor, of course. It also has implications for humans: ready access to trees and natural beauty has positive impacts on our own health and well-being.
Source: Calculations based on the map data shown and described below.
(1) see (for example) Michigan Department of Natural Resources. (2000). Managing Michigan’s Wildlife: A Landowner’s Guide. Lansing, MI: Mark Sargent and Kelly Siciliano Carter. Retrieved from http://www.michigandnr.com/publications/pdfs/huntingwildlifehabitat/landowners_guide/Resource_Dir/Acrobat/Grass_Ground_Cover.PDF