Environments Program

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Scientists in the Environments Program conduct research on the various ecosystems that occur across 416 million acres of public lands in the United States and its territories. We conduct research on these natural systems to provide information to Department of Interior agencies, which they can use to make decisions about how to manage public lands and trust resources.

Ecosystem Management

Ecosystem Management

Our ecological research improves the Nation’s understanding of how management decisions and environmental variation are impacting ecosystems now and in the future.

Find out how

Wildland Fire Research

Wildland Fire Research

Wildfires are a natural process in most regions of the U.S. They serve a vital role in nature but can also be unusually intense, widespread, or frequent. As a result, response and recovery costs are increasing.

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Environments Science

USGS science provides tools and information to protect responders, communities, managers and species by identifying wildland fire risks, developing ways to reduce wildfire hazards, and assessing and minimizing the aftermath of wildfires.

Wetlands

The Arctic

Deserts

Oceans

Great Lakes

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News

Date published: August 6, 2018

USGS Scientist Dr. Craig D. Allen Named Ecological Society of America Fellow

The U.S. Geological Survey is celebrating the achievements of Dr. Craig D. Allen, who was recently named an Ecological Society of America (ESA) fellow for making exceptional contributions to a broad array of ecology. Dr. Allen, a research ecologist with the USGS Fort Collins Science Center, joins 27 other newly-initiated ESA fellows from academia, public and private sectors. Fellows are elected for life.

Date published: July 31, 2017

Mapping Public Lands in the United States

The Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US) is the official inventory of public parks and other protected areas in all U.S. states and territories.

Date published: June 5, 2017

New USGS Science Plan Designed to Help Plan for Drought Effects on People, Communities, and Ecosystems

The U. S. Geological Survey is poised to bring a dynamic array of science and tools to help decision-makers manage and offset effects of increased drought across the United States, according to a drought plan report released today.

Ecological research is largely concerned with the system levels beyond that of the organism. An ecological community is all the animal and plant populations occupying a given area. Research to understand ecosystem use by humans has led to the development of sub-disciplines such as sustainable development, resilience theory, restoration ecology, and ecosystem services.

Ecosystems Research
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Date published: April 11, 2019
Status: Active

Conservation Genetics and Genomics of the Narrowly Endemic Island Marble Butterfly Euchloe ausonides insulanus

The island marble butterfly (Euchloe ausonides insulanus) was first discovered on Vancouver Island, Canada in 1861.  Based on morphological characteristics, it has been described as a subspecies of Euchloe ausonides.  After a collection was made in 1908 on Gabriola Island, Canada, the island marble was not seen again until 1998 on San Juan Island, Washington, USA. Recent...

Date published: April 9, 2019
Status: Active

Deepwater Atlantic Habitats II: Continued Atlantic Research and Exploration in Deepwater Ecosystems with Focus on Coral, Canyon, and Seep Communities. Part II: Genetic Connectivity and Oceanomic Studies

This study utilizes genetics and genomics techniques to characterize biodiversity and genetic connectivity among deep-sea coral habitats and cold seeps in and near submarine canyons and will use environmental DNA techniques to characterize plankton diversity and to identify key contributors to carbon export from surface waters that sustain sensitive benthic communities. The proposed genetics...

Date published: April 3, 2019
Status: Active

Development of Next Generation Techniques of fecal samples collected from nestling cactus wren

Coastal cactus wren populations have declined in southern California over the last three decades. In San Diego County, this decline has been especially noticeable in the Otay area, which in 2014 supported 14 territories on conserved lands. In the past, there were 25-53 active territories reported for this same area, with the highest estimate in 1992. There is also concern the number of active...

Date published: April 1, 2019
Status: Active

Metabarcoding of stomach contents from the Round Goby (Negobius melanostromus) in Pennsylvania

The Round Goby, Neogobius melanostomus, is a small benthic fish native to the Sea of Azov, the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. The first round goby found in the Pennsylvania waters was in 1996. Since then, round gobies are now the dominant benthic fish in many of the tributary streams in the Pennsylvanian waters of Lake Erie, including French Creek. French Creek is...

Contacts: Deborah D Iwanowicz, Jay Stauffer
Date published: March 12, 2019
Status: Active

Great Lakes Environments

Human activity has caused considerable ecological alterations in the Great Lakes region during the last 150 years and a majority of the most degraded habitats are found along urban coasts. Although strongly affected by human development, urban coasts are home to a variety of species with high ecological, economic, and societal value. USGS is remediating effects of human-induced ecosystem...

Date published: March 12, 2019
Status: Active

Arctic Environments

The current warming trend in the Arctic is unlike anything previously recorded and is affecting the region faster than any other place on Earth, bringing dramatic reductions in sea ice, altered weather, and thawing permafrost. 

Date published: June 28, 2018
Status: Active

Grazing

Grazing can have different impacts on an ecosystem including as a fire suppresant. USGS scientists are examining the effects of grazing in different environments to provide land resource managers with data they can use when determining grazing plans and actions.

Date published: June 28, 2018
Status: Active

Hurricanes

Hurricanes are large-scale disturbances of such force and size that their influence on landscape pattern and processes of coastal systems is evident, though still poorly understood. The regularity and severity of tropical storms are major factors controlling ecosystem structure and succession for coastal ecosystems. Hurricane landfall rates vary greatly for given coastal stretches of the...

Date published: June 28, 2018
Status: Active

Mining

USGS scientists develop techniques for restoration and rehabilitation, provide tools that can be used to restore impaired ecosystems into healthy, resilient landscapes and watersheds that sustain plants and animals, and identify adaptation strategies for managers to plan and implement for ecosystem adaptation to natural and human-caused drivers of ecosystem change.

Date published: June 28, 2018
Status: Active

Ecosystem Impacts

USGS science helps Interior land managers predict wildfire risk and behavior by understanding fuel loads and treatments, assess the risk for landslides, air and water quality impacts post-fire, and determine the most cost-effective and/or least impactful land and water management and restoration alternatives.

Date published: June 28, 2018
Status: Active

Socio-Economics

Protecting endangered species while managing economically important species is an ongoing natural
resource management challenge. USGS research will provide managers the information they need to manage endangered native species and economically important nonnative species using economically efficient approaches. The USGS biological/economic framework is also applicable to different natural...

Date published: June 28, 2018
Status: Active

Sagebrush

The sagebrush ecosystem extends across 11 Western States and two Canadian Provinces and over 60 percent of that landscape is on public lands, half of which are managed by the Interior. This area is dominated by sagebrush, which is priority habitat for over 350 wildlife species, most notably the greater sage grouse. Alterations in the sagebrush ecosystem including changing fire regimes, spread...

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Date published: October 17, 2017

Shapefiles and Historical Aerial Photographs, Little Missouri River, 1939-2003

The data archive contains the aerial photographs and channel delineations used in our analysis. The images have been geo-referenced to the 1995 digital orthophoto quarter quadrangles as described by Miller and Friedman (2009). The channel delineations for all photo years (including 2003) and the delineation of the outer flood-plain boundary are stored as shapefiles.

Date published: January 27, 2017

Mean of the Top Ten Percent of NDVI Values in the Yuma Proving Ground during Monsoon Season, 1986-2011

This study uses growth in vegetation during the monsoon season measured from LANDSAT imagery as a proxy for measured rainfall. NDVI values from 26 years of pre- and post-monsoon season Landsat imagery were derived across Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) in southwestern Arizona, USA.

Date published: January 27, 2017

Lower Rio Puerco geospatial data, 1935 - 2014

A long-term study of the geomorphic history of the lower Rio Puerco arroyo in north-central New Mexico included the collection of high-precision (Real-time kinematic) GPS survey data (2002, 2007, 2010, and 2014), registration and rectification of historical aerial photographs (1935, 1950s, 1970s, and 1996), aerial LiDAR survey (2005) and post-flood (2006) satellite imagery.

Date published: April 27, 2016

South Florida Information Access (SOFIA)

South Florida Information Access (SOFIA) was established to provide coherent information access in support of research, decision-making, and resource management for the South Florida ecosystem restoration effort.

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Year Published: 2019

Potential sea level rise for the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana

Situated in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain of the Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GCP LCC), the Chitimacha Tribe is one of four federally recognized tribes in Louisiana. The Tribal seat, trust lands/ reservation, and adjacent Tribal owned lands are located near Charenton, Louisiana, totaling nearly 1,000 acres. The...

Spear, Kathryn A.; Jones, William; Griffith, Kereen; Tirpak, Blair E.; Walden, Kimberly
Spear, K.A., Jones, W., Griffith, K., Tirpak, B.E., and Walden, K., 2019, Potential sea level rise on Chitimacha Tribal Lands in Louisiana: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2019–1030, 1 sheet, https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20191030.

Year Published: 2019

Drivers and uncertainties of forecasted range shifts for warm-water fishes under climate and land cover change

Land cover is an important determinant of aquatic habitat and is projected to shift with climate changes, yet climate-driven land cover changes are rarely factored into climate assessments. To quantify impacts and uncertainty of coupled climate and land cover change on warm-water fish species’ distributions, we used an ensemble model approach to...

Bouska, Kristen L.; Whitledge, Gregory W.; Lant, Christopher; Schoof, Justin
Bouska, K.L., Whitledge, G.W., Lant, C., Schoof, J. 2018. Drivers and uncertainties of forecasted range shifts for warm-water fishes under climate and land cover change. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 35 pgs. DOI: 10.1139/cjfas-2018-0002.

Year Published: 2018

Exploring the impacts of seagrass on coupled marsh-tidal flat morphodynamics

Intertidal coastal environments are prone to changes induced by sea level rise, increases in storminess, temperature, and anthropogenic disturbances. It is unclear how changes in external drivers may affect the dynamics of low energy coastal environments because their response is non-linear, and characterized by many thresholds and discontinuities...

Carr, Joel A.; Mariotti, Giulio; Fahgerazzi, Sergio; McGlathery, Karen; Wiberg, Patricia
Carr, J. A., Mariotti, G., Fagherazzi, S., McGlathery, K., and Wiberg, P., 2018, Exploring the impacts of seagrass on coupled marsh-tidal flat morphodynamics: Frontiers in Environment Science, v. 6, no. Article 92, p. 1-16 https://doi.org/10.3389/fenvs.2018.00092

Year Published: 2018

Research and management priorities for Hawaiian forest birds

Hawai‘i's forest birds face a number of conservation challenges that, if unaddressed, will likely lead to the extinction of multiple species in the coming decades. Threats include habitat loss, invasive plants, non-native predators, and introduced diseases. Climate change is predicted to increase the geographic extent and intensity of these...

Paxton, Eben H.; Laut, Megan; Vetter, John P.; Kendall, Steve J.
Paxton, E. H., M. Laut, J. P. Vetter, and S. J. Kendall. 2018. Research and management priorities for Hawaiian forest birds. Condor 120:557–565.

Year Published: 2018

Regeneration of Salicaceae riparian forests in the Northern Hemisphere: A new framework and management tool

Human activities on floodplains have severely disrupted the regeneration of foundation riparian shrub and tree species of the Salicaceae family (Populus and Salix spp.) throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Restoration ecologists initially tackled this problem from a terrestrial perspective that emphasized planting....

Gonzalez, Eduardo; Martinez-Fernandez, Vanesa; Shafroth, Patrick B.; Sher, Anna A.; Henry, Annie L.; Garofano-Gomez, Virginia; Corenblit, Dov
Gonzalez, E., V. Martinez-Fernandez, P.B. Shafroth, A.A. Sher, A.L. Henry, V. Garofano-Gomez, and D. Corenblit. 2018. Regeneration of Salicaceae riparian forests in the Northern Hemisphere: a new framework and management tool. Journal of Environmental Management 218:374-387.

Year Published: 2018

Ecological resilience indicators for mangrove ecosystems

Mangrove ecosystems are coastal wetland ecosystems dominated by mangrove species that are typically found in the intertidal zone, characterized by frequently flooded saline soil conditions. The majority of the approximately 500,000 acres of mangrove ecosystem in the United States occurs in the NGoM, and almost all of that is in Florida, with over...

Day, Richard H.; Allen, Scott T.; Brenner, Jorge; Goodin, Kathleen; Faber-Langendoen, Don; Ames, Katherine Wirt
Day, R.H., Allen, S.T., Brenner, J., Goodin, K.L., Faber-Langdoen, D., and Ames, K.W., 2018, Ecological resilience indicators for mangrove ecosystems, in Goodin, K.L., ed., Ecological Resilience Indicators for Five Northern Gulf of Mexico Ecosystems, Chapter 3, p. 91-150: NatureServe, Arlington, VA, http://www.natureserve.org/sites/default/files/projects/files/chapter_3_-_mangrove_indicators.pdf.

Year Published: 2018

Adaptive population divergence and directional gene flow across steep elevational gradients in a climate‐sensitive mammal

The American pika is a thermally sensitive, alpine lagomorph species. Recent climate-associated population extirpations and genetic signatures of reduced population sizes range-wide indicate the viability of this species is sensitive to climate change. To test for potential adaptive responses to climate stress, we sampled pikas along two...

Waterhouse, Matthew D.; Erb, Liesl P.; Beever, Erik A.; Russello, Michael A.
Waterhouse, M.D., L.P. Erb, E.A. Beever, and M.A. Russello. 2018. Adaptive population divergence and directional gene flow across steep elevational gradients in a climate-sensitive mammal. Molecular Ecology 27(11): 2512-2528.

Year Published: 2018

Effects of air temperature and discharge on Upper Mississippi River summer water temperatures

Recent interest in the potential effects of climate change has prompted studies of air temperature and precipitation associations with water temperatures in rivers and streams. We examined associations between summer surface water temperatures and both air temperature and discharge for 5 reaches of the Upper Mississippi River during 1994–2011....

Gray, Brian R.; Robertson, Dale M.; Rogala, James T.
Gray, B.R., Robertson, D.M., Rogala, J.T. 2018. Effects of air temperature and discharge on Upper Mississippi River summer water temperatures. River Research and Applications. 10 pgs. DOI: 10.1002/rra.3278.

Year Published: 2017

A new mechanistic approach for the further development of a population with established size bimodality

Usually, the origin of a within-cohort bimodal size distribution is assumed to be caused by initial size differences or by one discrete period of accelerated growth for one part of the population. The aim of this study was to determine if more continuous pathways exist allowing shifts from the small to the large fraction within a bimodal age-...

Heerman, Lisa; DeAngelis, Donald L.; Borcherding, Jost
Heermann, L., DeAngelis, D.L., and Borcherding, J., 2017, A new mechanistic approach for the further development of a population with established size bimodality: PLoS One, v. 12, no. 6, art. e0179339, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0179339.

Year Published: 2016

High-resolution records detect human-caused changes to the boreal forest wildfire regime in interior Alaska

Stand-replacing wildfires are a keystone disturbance in the boreal forest, and they are becoming more common as the climate warms. Paleo-fire archives from the wildland–urban interface can quantify the prehistoric fire regime and assess how both human land-use and climate change impact ecosystem dynamics. Here, we use a combination of a...

Gaglioti, Benjamin V.; Mann, Daniel H.; Jones, Benjamin M.; Wooller, Matthew J.; Finney, Bruce P.

Year Published: 2016

Differences in impacts of Hurricane Sandy on freshwater swamps on the Delmarva Peninsula, Mid−Atlantic Coast, USA

Hurricane wind and surge may have different influences on the subsequent composition of forests. During Hurricane Sandy, while damaging winds were highest near landfall in New Jersey, inundation occurred along the entire eastern seaboard from Georgia to Maine. In this study, a comparison of damage from salinity intrusion vs. wind/surge was...

Middleton, Beth A.
Middleton, B.A., 2016, Differences in impacts of Hurricane Sandy on freshwater swamps on the Delmarva Peninsula, Mid-Atlantic Coast, USA: Ecological Engineering, v. 87, p. 62-70, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoleng.2015.11.035.

Year Published: 2016

Ecosystem impacts of exotic annual invaders in the Genus Bromus

An understanding of the impacts of exotic plant species on ecosystems is necessary to justify and guide efforts to limit their spread, restore natives, and plan for conservation. Invasive annual grasses such as Bromus tectorum, B. rubens, B. hordeaceus, and B. diandrus (hereafter collectively referred to as Bromus)...

Germino, Matthew J.; Belnap, Jayne; Stark, John M.; Allen, Edith B.; Rau, Benjamin M.

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Bee pollinating a flowering coastal prairie plant
June 15, 2018

Bee pollinating a flowering coastal prairie plant - WARC

Bee pollinating a flowering coastal prairie plant

April 19, 2017

Prescribed Burn — Tall Timbers Research Station, FL (Drone)

Drone footage of a prescribed fire at Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, Florida (April 19, 2017).

April 19, 2017

Prescribed Burn — Tall Timbers Research Station, FL (Footage of Drone)

See the actual drone footage at: https://www.usgs.gov/media/videos/prescribed-burn-tall-timbers-research-...

Footage of drone during a prescribed fire at Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, Florida (April 19, 2017).

December 31, 2016

Historic USGS Streamgage on the Wabash River at Lafayette Indiana

This video will provide a brief history and purpose for one of the oldest streamgages in Indiana. The gage is at the Wabash River at Lafayette, Indiana. The site number is 03335500. This video was produced at the request of the West Lafayette Parks Department where this historic gage is located. A QR code is displayed on an interpretive plaque next to the gage which is

...
May 2, 2015

Mojave Golden Eagles

This short video features incredible and graphic images and video of golden eagle prey. These birds are eating machines. USGS biologist-rock climbers install nest cameras to study the eating habits of golden eagles and their young in the Mojave Desert. This work goes towards creating a Prey Availability Habitat Model to better site green energy projects so that they will

...
Mangrove forest, Rhizophora mangle tunnel, Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park, Florida
March 14, 2015

Mangrove forest, Rhizophora mangle tunnel, Florida

Mangrove forest, Rhizophora mangle tunnel, Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park, Florida. 

Male Laysan duck on water
December 31, 2014

Male Laysan duck (Anas laysanensis) at Midway Atoll

Male Laysan duck (Anas Laysanensis) at Midway Atoll, Hawai‘i

USGs Water towers
December 31, 2012

USGS Water towers

USGS Water towers at Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

Mountain Bluebird Eating Mistletoe Berry
December 12, 2012

Mountain Bluebird Eating Mistletoe Berry

A mountain bluebird eats a giant mistletoe berry in an ash tree in Sedona, Arizona (Oak Creek).  These bluebirds, and many other types of birds, rely on mistletoe berries for sustenance. As a result, they also help distribute the mistletoe seeds.

Mountain Bluebird Eating Mistletoe Berry
November 28, 2012

Mountain Bluebird Eating Mistletoe Berry

A mountain bluebird eats a giant mistletoe berry in an ash tree in Sedona, Arizona (Oak Creek).  These bluebirds, and many other types of birds, rely on mistletoe berries for sustenance. As a result, they also help distribute the mistletoe seeds.

 

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Date published: August 6, 2018

USGS Scientist Dr. Craig D. Allen Named Ecological Society of America Fellow

The U.S. Geological Survey is celebrating the achievements of Dr. Craig D. Allen, who was recently named an Ecological Society of America (ESA) fellow for making exceptional contributions to a broad array of ecology. Dr. Allen, a research ecologist with the USGS Fort Collins Science Center, joins 27 other newly-initiated ESA fellows from academia, public and private sectors. Fellows are elected for life.

Date published: July 31, 2017

Mapping Public Lands in the United States

The Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US) is the official inventory of public parks and other protected areas in all U.S. states and territories.

Date published: June 5, 2017

New USGS Science Plan Designed to Help Plan for Drought Effects on People, Communities, and Ecosystems

The U. S. Geological Survey is poised to bring a dynamic array of science and tools to help decision-makers manage and offset effects of increased drought across the United States, according to a drought plan report released today.

Date published: May 24, 2017

Igniting a New Trend in Public Safety

U.S. Geological Survey scientists and partners are taking technology to the next level, using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly called drones, to acquire both fire intensity and emissions data during prescribed burns.

Date published: February 23, 2017

Just HOW EARLY is spring arriving in your neighborhood? Find out . . .

Get your flip-flops and shorts out because spring is arriving very early this year . . . at least 2-3 weeks early across almost the entire Southeast, from San Antonio to Atlanta to Washington, D.C.  This unusually early spring is likely to keep rolling north, bringing relatively early ‘signs of spring’ to portions of the central Midwest and northeastern states.

Date published: February 23, 2017

Just HOW EARLY is spring arriving in your neighborhood? Find out . . .

Get your flip-flops and shorts out because spring is arriving very early this year . . . at least 2-3 weeks early across almost the entire Southeast, from San Antonio to Atlanta to Washington, D.C.  This unusually early spring is likely to keep rolling north, already bringing surprising signs of spring to portions of the central Midwest and northeastern states.

Date published: December 12, 2016

Not Just for Kissing: Mistletoe and Birds, Bees, and Other Beasts

Perhaps some of you have already experienced a sweet smooch or two under the holiday mistletoe, enjoying this fairly old kissing ritual for people. While figuring prominently in ancient lore, mistletoe is important in other vital ways: it provides essential food, cover and nesting sites for an amazing number of critters. In fact, some animals couldn’t even survive without mistletoe.

Date published: November 16, 2016

USGS Study Reveals Interactive Effects of Climate Change, Invasive Species on Native Fish

A new USGS study shows non-native Brown Trout can place a burden on native Brook Trout under the increased water temperatures climate change can cause.

Date published: May 6, 2016

Happy Mother’s Day to Moms of All Species

USGS wishes to honor all mothers, of all species. Many of our research findings have and are shedding light on the lives of non-human moms.  

Date published: April 4, 2016

Despite Long-Lasting Pollutants, Ospreys Thrive in US’ Largest Estuary

The world's largest breeding population of ospreys is coping well with the long-lasting residues of toxic chemicals that were banned decades ago but remain in the Chesapeake Bay food chain at varying levels, such as the pesticide DDT and insulating chemicals known as PCBs.

Date published: April 4, 2016

Cold Mountain Streams Offer Climate Refuge

A new study offers hope for cold-water species in the face of climate change. The study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, addresses a longstanding paradox between predictions of widespread extinctions of cold-water species and a general lack of evidence for those extinctions despite decades of recent climate change.

Date published: January 15, 2016

Biodiversity Critical to Maintaining Healthy Ecosystems

Researchers have found clear evidence that biological communities rich in species are substantially healthier and more productive than those depleted of species.

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