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.

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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: March 23, 2018

Potential Variability in Population-Level Response of Ponderosa Pine to Climate Change

Models of future species distributions are regularly fit at the species level, yet a species’ response to environmental change is not always uniform across its distribution.

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
Filter Total Items: 38
Date published: March 16, 2018
Status: Active

Forest Structure Resulting from ‘Wildlife Forestry Silviculture’

The Challenge: Management of bottomland forests using wildlife forestry silviculture is being undertaken to achieve desired forest conditions for priority silvicolous wildlife, such as Louisiana black bear, migratory birds, and resident game species. Wildlife forestry management results in forests that have more open canopies and increased understory vegetation yet exhibit heterogeneous...

Date published: March 15, 2018
Status: Active

Development of a Multimetric Index for Integrated Assessment of Salt Marsh Condition in the Northeast Coastal and Barrier Network

The Challenge: The integrity and sustainability of salt marshes in National Park units of the Northeast Coastal and Barrier Network (NCBN) are severely threatened by human activities. These marshes provide critical fish and wildlife habitat and essential ecosystem services in the northeastern coastal zone, and are a high priority for NCBN Vital Signs monitoring. Biennial monitoring of nekton (...

Date published: March 15, 2018
Status: Active

Recovery of Eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) in Casco Bay, Maine, Following Destruction by European Green Crabs

The Challenge:  Eelgrass provides essential functions to the ecology and economy of Maine’s coastal zone. When over half the eelgrass in Casco Bay, Maine, disappeared between 2012 and 2013, USGS experimental evidence identified disturbance from invasive European green crabs as the leading cause. Loss of vegetation is expected to precipitate a range of impacts, including reduced fish and...

Date published: March 14, 2018
Status: Active

Integrating Estuarine Water-Quality Data in Northeastern National Parks

The Challenge: Estuaries in northeastern states are severely threatened by the adverse impacts of nutrient over-enrichment. USGS led the development of a vital-signs protocol to monitor estuarine nutrient status in northeastern National Parks, and monitoring has been operational in coastal parks from Massachusetts to Virginia since 2006. Monitoring results must be synthesized and interpreted...

Date published: March 14, 2018
Status: Active

Variation in Nitrogen Isotope Ratios of Eelgrass to Detect Trends in Estuarine Nutrient Status

The Challenge: Seagrasses are productive and important components of shallow coastal waters, and they have suffered extensive declines worldwide. Because seagrasses are directly in the path of watershed nutrient inputs, a major cause of habitat loss is coastal development and consequent water quality degradation. Improved approaches for detecting threats of nutrient enrichment are paramount to...

Date published: March 14, 2018
Status: Active

Sustainably Designed Trails: Recent Recreation Ecology Findings on Design Factors Affecting Soil Loss

The Challenge: Achieving conservation objectives in protected natural areas requires the ability to sustain visitation while avoiding or minimizing adverse environmental impacts. Trails are an essential infrastructure component that limits resource impacts by concentrating use on hardened treads designed and maintained to sustain traffic. This is particularly challenging when visitation is...

Contacts: Jeff Marion, Ph.D., Dr. Jeremy Wimpey, Dr. Chris Carr, Dr. Yu-Fai Leung
Date published: March 13, 2018
Status: Active

Use of Structured Decision Making to Optimize Salt Marsh Management Decisions at Northeastern National Wildlife Refuges

The Challenge: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) needs tools to inform decisions regarding the management and restoration of salt marsh ecosystems on northeastern National Wildlife Refuges. Previously, we developed a structured decision making (SDM) framework for optimizing refuge management decisions. This SDM framework served as the foundation for FWS to implement a consistent...

Date published: March 13, 2018
Status: Active

Research and Management of Informal (Visitor-Created) Trails in Protected Areas

The Challenge: The proliferation and degradation of visitor-created “informal” trails in protected areas can be a vexing management issue for land managers. Formal trail systems never provide access to all locations required by visitors seeking to engage in a variety of appropriate recreational activities. Traveling off-trail may be necessary to engage in activities such as nature study,...

Contacts: Jeff Marion, Ph.D., Dr. Jeremy Wimpey, Dr. Chris Carr, Dr. Yu-Fai Leung
Date published: August 30, 2017

Reconstructing Flow History From Riparian Tree Rings

Aquatic Systems Branch scientists analyze rings of riparian trees relating tree growth and establishment to historical flow. We then use the tree rings to reconstruct the flow in past centuries. Flow reconstructions discover the frequency and magnitude of past droughts and floods—information that is essential for management of rivers and water supplies. We also use downscaled climate...

Date published: January 17, 2017

Ecological Drought in Riparian Ecosystems

Drought is killing riparian trees along many rivers in the western United States. The cause can be increasing temperature or decreasing precipitation, flow or water-table elevation. At multiple locations we are relating water availability to physiological measurements of tree survival and water stress, such as ring width, carbon stable isotope ratio and branch hydraulic conductivity. These...

Date published: December 20, 2016
Status: Active

Estimation of Density and Abundance of Biological Populations on National Parks and Wildlife Refuges Through Distance Sampling

The Challenge: Assessing the status and trends of populations of biological organisms is an important management goal and a recurrent theme in USGS research. Often, the most basic question of “how many are there?” remains elusive, thus making management decisions more difficult. This study continues a long-term commitment of technical support for the use of distance sampling for wildlife...

Date published: December 20, 2016
Status: Active

Monitoring Birds in National Parks of the Gulf Coast Network

The Challenge: Avian monitoring within the Gulf Coast Network of the National Park Service is challenged to provide valid quantitative data on bird populations within park boundaries with limited financial input. Thus, citizen science (volunteer) bird monitoring has been proposed to achieve reliable estimates of bird populations and to assess the effects of habitat change and temporal dynamics...

Filter Total Items: 4
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.

Filter Total Items: 10
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 located in a high...

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 have the least impact...

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.

 

Filter Total Items: 12
Date published: March 23, 2018

Potential Variability in Population-Level Response of Ponderosa Pine to Climate Change

Models of future species distributions are regularly fit at the species level, yet a species’ response to environmental change is not always uniform across its distribution.

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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