Terrestrial Ecosystems

Science Center Objects

The USGS conducts research on trust Department of Interior migratory bird and mammal species and their habitats to inform agencies such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service in their natural resource management decisions.

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A Pacific Loon swimming on a small lake

A Pacific Loon swimming in a small lake on the Colville River delta.
​​​​​​​(Credit: Ryan Askren, USGS. Public domain.)

Bird species inhabiting primarily terrestrial habitats, known collectively as “landbirds,” constitute the largest and most ecologically diverse component of the Alaskan avifauna. Habitats used by landbirds range from temperate rainforests in southeastern Alaska to arctic tundra across much of northern Alaska. USGS research quantifies how landbirds are signals of terrestrial habitat quality and change.



All three loon species in Alaska occur within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) on Alaska’s northern coast. Research by the USGS is informing distribution and abundance of loons in northern Alaska and how they may respond to environmental and human changes to the northern landscape.


Emperor geese at the shoreline in Kodiak

Emperor geese at the shoreline in Kodiak.
(Credit: Brian Uher-Koch, USGS. Public domain.)


Numerous species make up the group of birds known as shorebirds. These birds are international migrants, arriving in Alaska from Oceania, Asia, and South America.  USGS research quantifies migration corridors and drivers of population trends.



Ducks, geese, and swans make up the group of birds know as waterfowl and they comprise an important resource for sport and subsistence harvest in Alaska and across North America due to their migratory patterns.  USGS research quantifies drivers of population trends in waterfowl populations, such as disease, habitat quality, and environmental change.


Terrestrial Mammals

Three caribou from the Porcupine Herd standing on the tundra

Three caribou standing in the tundra.  These caribou are part of the Porcupine caribou herd. 
(Credit: Andrew Ramey, USGS. Public domain.)

Understanding the population dynamics, predator/prey relationships and habitat ecology of large, terrestrial mammals is critical for the management of these wildlife species in Alaska. USGS research provides relevant scientific information for wildlife management issues, such as the influences of climate change, management of sport and subsistence harvests, and effects of disease and human developments.



The Arctic ecosystem is rapidly changing and numerous wildlife species and their habitats are responding to these changes.  USGS research quantifies the responses (positive, negative, and stable) of wildlife species and their habitats to ecosystem change in the Arctic and makes information on these responses available to inform management decisions related to development of oil and gas resources, sport and subsistence harvest, and population trends of northern latitude wildlife populations.


Ecosystems Analytics

The Ecosystems Analytics group uses novel and cutting edge statistical, mapping, and graphical methods to conduct research on a variety of taxa.  Our overarching goal is to help inform wildlife and land management decisions through assisting partners with designing monitoring programs, analyzing existing data, and developing new research projects.  Our focus often involves modeling wildlife population dynamics through space and time and predicting how populations may respond to ecological and anthropogenic changes in the future.