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: 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.

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: June 28, 2018
Status: Active

Fire

Accurate and timely scientific information is critical to ensure appropriate management response to wildfires and effective investments in stabilization, rehabilitation, and restoration of landscapes immediately after wildfires occur. Currently, fire management organizations lack adequate scientific information to prioritize burned regions for suppression and restoration activities.

...

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...

Date published: June 27, 2018
Status: Active

Everglades

The USGS Greater Everglades Priority Ecosystems Program provides science to support management and restoration of America’s Everglades. This program supports multi-year monitoring, modeling, and research  projects that span the entire range of scientific disciplines. A recent emphasis has been on climate change effects. Research topics include biogeochemistry, invasive species detection and...

Date published: June 27, 2018
Status: Active

San Francisco Bay

USGS scientists have made great strides in refining and extending the capabilities of the Computational Assessments of Scenarios of Change for the Delta Ecosystem (CASCaDE II model systems); a collaboration among the USGS and several academic and international organizations. This paved the way for more reliable and objective evaluations of the ecosystem consequences of management actions and...

Date published: June 27, 2018
Status: Active

Chesapeake Bay

USGS research has a critical role in providing scientific information to improve the understanding and management of the Nation’s largest estuary: the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. The 64,000-square-mile watershed supports over 3,600 species of fish, wildlife, and plants and provides spawning grounds for many ecologically and economically important species including striped bass and blue crabs....

Date published: June 26, 2018
Status: Active

River Environments

Protecting endangered species while managing economically important species is an ongoing natural
resource management challenge, especially in rivers. The USGS develops tools like biological/economic models to identify optimal strategies and economic and biological tradeoffs when adding nonnative species to rivers where endangered native species exist. This ongoing research will provide...

Date published: June 26, 2018
Status: Active

Montane Environments

Mountain ecosystems are highly sensitive to climate change, and USGS is conducting montane research across the West to help resource managers plan now for the future. Coordination with scientists around the world has led to mountain research networks to expand our understanding of how these ecosystems respond to climate change.

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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.

Filter Total Items: 61
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; 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

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; 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

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.

Year Published: 2016

Resprouting and seeding hypotheses: A test of the gap-dependent model using resprouting and obligate seeding subspecies of Arctostaphylos

Ecological factors favoring either postfire resprouting or postfire obligate seeding in plants have received considerable attention recently. Three ecological models have been proposed to explain patterns of these two life history types. In this study, we test these three models using data from California chaparral. We take an innovative approach...

Keeley, Jon E.; Parker, V. Thomas; Vasey, Michael C.
Keeley, JE, VT Parker, MC Vasey. 2016. Resprouting and seeding hypotheses: a test of the gap-dependent model using resprouting and obligate seeding subspecies of Arctostaphylos. Plant Ecology. doi: 10.1007/s11258-015-0551-z

Year Published: 2015

Effects of drought and fire on bird communities of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona

Executive Summary The U.S. Government created the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge (Kofa NWR) in 1939 in response to a citizen campaign to improve desert bighorn sheep populations in Arizona. The Kofa NWR is mountainous and remote, and its management by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) keeps anthropogenic disturbance levels low. As such,...

McCreedy, Chris; van Riper, Charles; Esque, Todd C.; Darrah, Abigail J.
McCreedy, C., van Riper, C., III, Esque, T.C., and Darrah, A.J., 2015, Effects of drought and fire on bird communities of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015–1240, 34 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20151240.

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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

...
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: 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.

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