Once a year, I give an update to the progress of documenting biodiversity in the Sax-Zim Bog. I have been working on a post about biodiversity since the next milestone of 2500 species was approaching (as we blew by 2000 species not long after this post). The 2500 species mark was surpassed just before the 9th Annual Sax-Zim Bog BioBlitz, so it would make sense to get an update out after the bioblitz, right? Wrong! During the time of the BioBlitz, there was a project undertaken by a group of Minnesota Master Naturalists which combed through data to find additional species from the area that might be a part of the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum Collection, from Minnesota Biological Survey data, or from any number of studies that may have been undertaken in the region. That project has completed, so the time is finally right for a complete update!
At present, the species list sits at 2762! Two major leaps from the 2500 species mark came from additions found during the 9th Annual Sax-Zim Bog BioBlitz (114 species added) and the aforementioned Master Naturalist Project (113 species added)! If you are not familiar with the Minnesota Master Naturalist Program, check out their website here to learn more. Part of becoming a Master Naturalist involves a 40 hour training on one of the four major biomes in the state. At the end of this training, a capstone project is completed. This project could be anything from creating a brochure about native plants in a local park, additional educational materials for a nature center, or even documenting biodiversity of your local area. One such option for capstone projects this round involved checking through databases for new species to add to the Master Species List for the Sax-Zim Bog! The team (Cara, Craig, Jen, John, and Steve) poured over public databases, scientific studies, and citizen science data. After combing through 1500+ records, the list was sorted and boiled down to 198 species. I further investigated their list, removing duplicates and outdated species names, and came away with 113 new species. An incredible effort by their group and a well appreciated additions to the list, finding a number of new insect and plant species!
A final project to outline is one you may have noticed if you have visited the Sax-Zim Bog recently. Perhaps you have seen some information at the Welcome Center or odd poles along Gray Jay Way. These poles are part of a fascinating project documenting biodiversity in the area: Minnesota Bee Atlas Surveys! The Bee Atlas is an ongoing project, started in 2015 and soon to be completed, which is looking to give an update to known bee distribution in the state. The last statewide survey of bees was undertaken in 1919, only documenting 67 species. It is now known that there are somewhere around 400 species of bee found in Minnesota! I have been collecting bees for the Bee Atlas by netting throughout the Bog and through two survey transects (one at the Welcome Center and one at Zim Wildlife Management Area). Nicole Gerjets, Bee Survey Specialist for the Minnesota Biological Survey, has been doing much of the ground work for the Atlas this summer and has collected some bees from the Bog on her circuit through Northeastern Minnesota. It has been great to help out with such an important project. Results from the surveys will give a good idea of not only the distribution of bees in the Sax-Zim Bog, but St. Louis County and greater Minnesota. There have never been extensive surveys for bees in Northeastern Minnesota, so all of the data gained will be new and help understand the distribution of bees in St. Louis County and beyond! Stay tuned for further updates associated with this project.
Considering the above, it would be important to highlight a few of the new species added to the list. So many amazing species have been added to the Master Species List lately, but all of the new species could not possibly be profiled in one Bog Blog post. To give a little more information about the species found on our list, we will be starting a series of posts about species found in the Sax-Zim Bog on a weekly basis on our Facebook page and Instagram account! To give a preview of what these posts might look like, enjoy some information below about a few of the recent additions to the Master Species List:
Green-faced Clubtail (Hylogomphus viridifrons)
Green-faced Clubtail was the 2500 species added to the Master Species List! This attractive clubtail is considered to be rare across most of its range. Clubtails, as a species group, are indicators of high water quality. The Sax-Zim Bog is lucky to have thirteen species of clubtail in its rivers, streams, and lakes. Green-faced Clubtail is a fairly small species of clubtail that prefers to perch on exposed rock in a stream, as opposed to the margins of a stream. We have only documented this species from one location in the Sax-Zim Bog, though it probably occurs in a few other locations.
Transverse-banded Flower Fly (Eristalis transversa)
From perfect bumble bee and wasp mimics, to highly intricately patterned, flower flies are an interesting bunch! Flower flies are immensely diverse in body shape, behavior, and habitats. Often times, these beautiful flies get overlooked in favor of bees and other pollinators. We have documented a total of 41 species of these important pollinators in the Sax-Zim Bog. Welcome Center Naturalist Jason documented Transverse-banded Flower Fly from the pollinator garden at the Welcome Center this summer. A fairly common species, it had certainly been overlooked until Jason’s keen eye! This species has a very eastern distribution and Minnesota is on the western edge of this species range.
Balsam Fir Needle Cast Fungus species (Lirula nervata)
Part of the amazing biodiversity documented by Sam Guida during the Galls, Rusts, and Non-Metazoan Plant Diseases field trip during the 9th Annual Sax-Zim Bog BioBlitz, Lirula nervata is a strange parasitic fungus found on Balsam Fir needles. This fungus has a two to three year life cycle and can be found on the bottom side of fir needles in the form of a dark line down the midline of the needle. Typically, this fungus impacts smaller trees or individual branches. Larger outbreaks of this fungus can be of concern in an ecosystem, but normally doesn’t impact a forest negatively. What a neat fungus!
Spoonleaf Sundew (Drosera intermedia)
Known also as Intermediate Sundew, Spoonleaf Sundew was an amazing find before the BioBlitz by Tony Ernst! One of four species of sundew that occur in Minnesota, Spoonleaf Sundew is a species I was hoping would be found in the Bog. Sundews have modified leaves that allow them to capture prey! The small droplets on the leaves are sticky and capture a variety of insect prey, which add valuable nutrients to the plant in their often nutrient poor environments. Spoonleaf Sundew is found primarily in the Laurentian Mixed Forest biome, in both bogs and fens. Interestingly enough, there are at least two species of moth who’s lifecycle require sundews and their caterpillars have found a way to avoid getting stuck and actually eat the leaves!
Nodding Beggarticks (Bidens cernua)
The beggarticks are an interesting group of plants. Some have fairly well developed flowers, where others have only small and not so obvious flowers. Nodding Beggarticks is very widespread in Minnesota, so it is perhaps a surprise we have not yet documented this species! The name beggarticks comes from their seeds, which have small barbs and stick to the unsuspecting passerby. This is part of their dispersal strategy! Nodding Beggarticks was added to the Master Species List from the Master Naturalist project noted above and the record was located in the University of Minnesota collection. A photo of the record is included above and includes a surprise: another new species record! The label of this specimen contains a note that it was associating with a few plant species of which Carex vesicaria! This brings the Master Species list up to 2763. Who knows what might be found when going through old records of specimens.
The amazing biodiversity in the Sax-Zim Bog continues to surprise me, even after 6 years of looking for and keeping track of species. For year to year, BioBlitz to BioBlitz, interesting species continue to be found. These new finds add on to the knowledge of the area, allows for new subject to teach about, and hopefully will continue to dazzle those who chose to come to the Sax-Zim Bog for many years to come!
Perhaps the next update you might read about the Sax-Zim Bog Master Species list may be at the 3000 species mark!
Until next time, we will see you in the Bog!
–Head Naturalist Clinton