Numerous small natural areas to the south and west of the seven parks have climates that may be analogous to future climates within the parks. Currently, Minnesota has 142 Scientific and Natural Areas, Wisconsin has 593, and Michigan 46 (Fig 1). Among these and Nature Conservancy reserves, it is possible to find a large number of potential future analogs. Analogs can be used by finding existing natural areas with current climate similar to that projected for the future of a given park, and similar physiography. For example, rocky hilltops in Voyageurs NP that currently support boreal spruce-lichen woodland, may be similar to Gneiss Outcrops Scientific and Natural Area, Minnesota, 400 km southwest, by 2100. Gneiss Outcrops Scientific and Natural Area now supports grasses such as little bluestem, two species of prickly pear cactus, and stunted bur oak and juniper.
Future climates projected for this region represent shifts of existing climates rather than novel climates (Williams et al. 2007). The largest source of uncertainty is in the future precipitation to evaporation ratio; i.e. whether the climate in a given location will be warmer and drier versus warmer and wetter. It is possible to prepare for either case by examining warmer/drier analogs that lie to the southwest and warmer/wetter analogs that lie to the southeast of a given park. Natural areas that lie to the south (for wet or dry scenarios) are the only sources of future neo-native species for the parks—the future species list for any park must necessarily be a combination of existing species that may persist in thermal refuges within the parks plus neo-native species from the south (and unfortunately, plus invasive species). We will conduct an extensive analysis of future analogs of vegetation and wildlife species for all seven parks for a range of warming scenarios extending out to the end of the 21st Century, including potential intermediate analogs on the way to the ultimate analogs at the end of the century. We will also attempt to find analogs for special biological features of this group of parks to the extent possible.