A habitat must provide food, water, shelter, and space for an organism to survive. The type of habitat an organism lives in depends on its needs.  Some animals are able to live in many different types of habitats, while others are limited to just one or two. If a habitat changes too much, it can no longer support the same kinds of organisms. Central Park contains multiple types of habitat, meaning it can support many species of plants and animals. This contributes to its high biodiversity significance rating.

Hardwood Forest

Forests are characterized by continuous, often dense, canopies of deciduous trees and understories with shade-adapted shrubs and herbs. Dominant broadleaf trees include oaks, beeches, maples, or birches.

Forests are home to more than half of the world’s land-based species of animals, plants and insects. They combat climate change because of their capacity to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it.

While many people see planting new trees as the answer to climate change, preserving existing mature forests will have an even more profound effect on slowing global warming, since immature trees sequester far less CO2 than older ones. This is one reason Restore the Nine opposes projects such as widened trails that will require the city to cut down mature trees, even if they do plant saplings to replace them.

Oak Savanna

An oak savanna is a type of savanna—or lightly forested grassland—where oaks are the dominant trees. Oak savanna is a unique plant community characterized by a prairie-like mix of grasses and wildflowers, dotted with large, widely-spaced oak trees. Once common across the Midwest, oak savannas are now highly endangered.

In contrast to a forest, which has a closed canopy, the oak savanna canopy ranges from about 10% to 30%. In such a habitat, the ground layer receives sun and shade, which permits growth of a wide diversity of grasses and flowering plants.

Oak savannas are home to an immense diversity of life. They provide the perfect habitat for animals such as wild turkeys, as well as many bats, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects that are currently threatened or in decline. Moreover, certain species such as the red-headed woodpecker and Karner blue butterfly are restricted to oak savannas and cannot persist without them.

Bloomington partnered with Hennepin County to recreate an Oak Savanna along the north eastern edge of Central Park. This project involved taking down dozens, if not hundreds, of mature trees. Restore the Nine believes that because of the massive loss of this canopy habitat, no further projects that require cutting down mature trees should be allowed in Central Park.

Floodplain Forests

Central Park’s floodplain forest lies in the low, flood-prone areas along the Minnesota river.

Floodplain forests help filter pollutants to prevent them from entering streams, improve water quality, store carbon, are critical in controlling erosion, and help buffer rivers against catastrophic flooding.

Floodplains are home to a variety of wildlife and provide safe resting grounds and food sources for hundreds of bird, insect, fish and other animal species. The damp soils create rich insect and amphibian breeding habitats, and these species in turn become prey for birds such as woodcock and barred owl, for mammals such as mink and raccoon, and for reptiles such as snakes and turtles.

Central Park’s floodplain forest provides nesting and migratory habitat for over 100 bird species.

Restore the Nine believes that the floodplain forests in Central Park are already struggling due to threats like the emerald ash borer, and that constructing boardwalks will likely damage or kill mature trees. Once the taller trees die, invasive grasses like reed canary grass take over the understory in thick mats that make it nearly impossible for new trees to grow.

Remnant Prairie

Central Park contains several acres of remnant prairie—grasslands dominated by native prairie vegetation, usually occurring where the sod has never been broken and that remain to some extent undisturbed by European settlement. Prairie remnants have become increasingly threatened due to the threats of agricultural, urban and suburban development, pollution, fire suppression, and the incursion of invasive species.


A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded or saturated by water, either permanently for years, or seasonally for shorter periods.  Wetlands are considered among the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal species.

Birds, including ducks, geese, kingfishers, and sandpipers, use wetlands as pit stops during long migrations, providing them with protection and food. Mammals like otters, and beavers rely on wetlands to find food and shelter. And, of course, wetlands are home to many species of fish.

There are different types of wetlands in Minnesota, each with widely varying characteristics. It is estimated that Minnesota has lost about 50 percent of its original wetland acreage.

On the map at right, from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, you can see four types of wetlands around Nine Mile Creek and the Minnesota River. The most prevalent is PFO1A, which stands for Palustrine, FOrested, Broad-leaved deciduous, temporarily flooded.

Palustrine means relating to a system of inland freshwater wetlands, characterized by the presence of trees, shrubs, and emergent vegetation. Forested wetland is dominated by woody vegetation over 20 feet tall. Broad-leaved deciduous trees are sometimes known as hardwoods.

The wetlands of Nine Mile Creek are under the jurisdiction of the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District.

Nine Mile Creek

Nine Mile Creek is a freshwater habitat. Not only is it a source of drinking water, it provides habitat and food for a diverse range of animals, including fish, crayfish, turtles, water snakes, otters, beavers, ducks, herons, and kingfishers. Most of the animals in the park rely on the creek in one way or another.

It’s also threatened. The creek is already on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s list of Impaired Waters, with high levels of toxins that are detrimental to fish and crustaceans. Climate change, population growth, and changing consumption patterns are just a few of the forces that will put the creek at further risk in the future.

Freshwater species are declining at an alarming rate of 76%—much faster than terrestrial or marine species—and freshwater habitats are in worse condition than those of forests, grassland, or coastal systems.

The Nine Mile Creek restoration project is not directly addressing water quality.


Sign up to receive updates about how you can help preserve Central Park for future generations.