Project ArchivesThese projects represent previous and/or completed research efforts from the Research and Development Program.
Alaskan Quaternary Climate Change
This project involves reconstruction of the late Pleistocene and Holocene history of environmental change in Alaska, focusing upon the past 50,000 years. High latitude ecosystems are highly sensitive to climatic change. Understanding the history of environmental responses to past climate changes provides a basis for forecasting future responses to a variety of possible climatic scenarios. Information derived from this study has applications to ecology, paleoecology, paleoclimatology, archeology, vertebrate paleontology, and other fields. Understanding ecosystem history is also crucial for proper management of national forests, national and state parks, and wildlife refuges.
Atlantic Estuaries: Chesapeake Bay
Eastern U.S. estuaries have common environmental problems: degraded water quality, loss of wetlands and riparian zones, sea-level rise, sedimentation, coastal erosion, declining fish and wildlife populations, loss of sub-aquatic vegetation (SAV) and increased algal blooms. Population growth, urban sprawl, intensified agriculture, and climate change exacerbate these. Mitigation of estuarine issues requires understanding of ecological, physical, and chemical changes due to climate variability and anthropogenic factors, the influence of regional geological framework, and impacts of land-use changes in watersheds and coastal zones. This project provides a scientific basis for resource managers and other policy-makers to address these issues. The initial work was in Chesapeake Bay, and eventually it will shift to other mid-Atlantic estuaries (possibly including, but not limited to, Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, Chicoteague, and Delaware Bay) and apply techniques developed in Chesapeake Bay to issues in those estuaries.
Climate Effects Network (CEN)
Climate Effects Network (CEN) is a consortium of observation and research programs that collect, share, and use data, models, and related information to assess climate impacts on ecosystems, resources, and society. CEN provides network coordination, data management, enhanced funding for existing monitoring programs, and new data collection to create a national scientific capacity that is "greater than the sum of the parts." The CEN makes ecosystem data, models, and related information freely available to empower scientists, resource managers, policy makers, and the public to make scientifically-informed decisions. The result is an "early warning system" for forecasting changes in the Nations environmental resources as a result of climate change.
Documenting Post-Little Ice Age Glacier Behavior and Landscape Evolution in Alaskan National Parks and National Forests
Glacierís are the largest reservoir of freshwater on Earth and the single most significant source of meltwater entering the global ocean. In the temperate glacier world, the primary source of meltwater entering the global ocean is the glacierized region of Alaska and adjacent Canada. The majority of temperate glaciers that are contributing to rising sea levels are located in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Wrangell-St Elias National Park, Denali National Park, Kenai Fjords National Park, Katmai National Park, Lake Clark National Park & Preserve, Gates Of The Arctic National Park & Preserve, Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve, Katmai National Park & Preserve, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Tongass National Forest, and Chugach National Forest. A large volume of water remains in Alaskan glaciers. Therefore, the response of existing glaciers to changing climate is a significant factor in future meltwater production. A future sea level rise of even a few centimeters can have a devastating impact on Earthís low elevation coastal areas. Consequently, determining Alaskaís potential role in future sea level change is of critical importance.
Lake/Catchment Systems (LACS)
The USGS Bear Lake Project started in 1998 with the goal of creating records of past climate change for the Bear Lake region, including changes in precipitation (rain and snow) patterns during the last 10,000 years. As part of the project, we're determining how the size of Bear Lake has varied in the past, to assess the possibility of future flooding and drought. Our study includes the upper Bear River watershed. The Bear River is the largest river in the Great Basin and the source of the majority of water flowing into the Great Salt Lake. In this region, wet periods may produce flooding along the course of the Bear River and around Great Salt Lake, while dry periods, or droughts, may affect water availability for agricultural, industrial and residential use.
Last Interglacial Timing & Environment (LITE)
The last interglacial period has been cited as a possible analog for a future climate under an increased-CO2 greenhouse warming. Previous studies have shown that during the last interglacial CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere were relatively high temperatures may have been higher than the present, and sea level may have been ~6 m higher. The ultimate goals of the LITE project are to (1) develop an accurate estimate of the duration of the last interglacial period, with improved understanding of its primary cause or causes, and (2) using the geologic record, reconstruct the climate of the last interglacial period in the U.S. Both of these goals are intended to provide a basis for improvement of atmospheric general circulation models (AGCMs) that are critical for modeling of future climate.
Rio Puerco Basin Studies
The arroyo cycle and climate change are of scientific and practical interest. The Rio Puerco Basin, New Mexico, is an area of historic arroyo incision, long-term geomorphic investigation, and ongoing land management issues. This website comprises earth science and historical perspectives of the Rio Puerco Basin, and data and models that can be used to help predict responses to future changes of climate and landuse.
Science Applications and Decision Support
The purpose of SADS is to develop regional-scale mechanisms that facilitates federal agency collaboration on providing decision support tools for understanding climate variability and change throughout the nation. Our prototype efforts in the Northern Rockies tie in closely with the Department of the Interiorís Landscape Conservation Cooperative, and with the USDI-National Park Serviceís scenario planning efforts, along with an entire suite of public and private partners. The goal is to develop a true collaboration where managers and researchers work together to provide extension services that result in more effective management decisions, focusing on questions surrounding climate issues that are most relevant to a multitude of natural resource specialists. Current USGS climate change related research will help build these tools, while new and innovative research will keep momentum toward progress in providing dynamic, scientifically sound decision support tools to natural resource managers in the area of climate change and ecosystem science.