Environments Program

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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: 58
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.

Date published: June 26, 2018
Status: Active

Mangrove Science Network

The Mangrove Science Network is a collaboration of USGS scientists focused on working with natural resource managers to develop and conduct research whose findings will support and evaluate decisions made in mangrove management and restoration.

USGS research on mangrove ecosystem biology includes mangrove regeneration, tree growth, sedimentation, and early seedling development. We are...

Date published: June 25, 2018
Status: Active

Forests

Forests are a key component of a healthy ecosystem. Management of these resources is vital to their protection as a recreational resource as well as an environmental resource.

Date published: June 25, 2018
Status: Active

Ecosystem Ecology

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. The community (biotic) and the nonliving environment function (abiotic) together as an ecological system or “ecosystem” which is governed by principles such as population dynamics, competition, and energy and...

Date published: June 25, 2018
Status: Active

Decision Analysis

USGS scientists work with decision makers and stakeholders to develop decision analytic frameworks to deliberately reduce the uncertainty that negatively affects the quality of decisions whether made once (i.e., Structured Decision Making) or repeatedly (i.e., Adaptive Management).

Date published: June 25, 2018
Status: Active

Forecasting

Informed forecasting of landscape structure, function, composition, and condition requires an understanding of the factors that control, constrain, and regulate ecosystem dynamics. USGS science is focused on understanding these driving factors using ecological research, long-term field studies and ecosystem modeling. Additionally, the USGS works with partners to provide alternative strategies...

Date published: June 25, 2018
Status: Active

System Understanding

The Environments Program responds to the needs and requirements of resource management bureaus within the Interior and other science and resource management organizations by designing, developing and conducting research required for the resource management and policy decisions made by a variety of stakeholders.

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

Salt marsh ecosystems along all US coastlines have been altered, degraded, and destroyed by human activities, including ditching and drainage of the marsh platform, tidal restrictions, discharge of pollutants, and introduction of invasive species. The National Park Service conducts long-term monitoring of salt marsh vegetation and nekton (fish and free-swimming crustaceans) to provide...

Date published: March 15, 2018
Status: Active

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

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. Natural revegetation is occurring, but there is interest in learning whether restoration may hasten recover.

Filter Total Items: 64
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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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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

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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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Year Published: 2015

Fire effects on aquatic ecosystems: an assessment of the current state of the science

Fire is a prevalent feature of many landscapes and has numerous and complex effects on geological, hydrological, ecological, and economic systems. In some regions, the frequency and intensity of wildfire have increased in recent years and are projected to escalate with predicted climatic and landuse changes. In addition, prescribed burns continue...

Rebecca J. Bixby; Scott D. Cooper; Gresswell, Robert E.; Lee E. Brown; Clifford N. Dahm; Kathleen A. Dwire
Bixby, R.J., S.D. Cooper, R.E. Gresswell, L.E. Brown, C.N. Dahm, and K.A. Dwire. 2015. Fire effects on aquatic ecosystems: an assessment of the current state of the science. Freshwater Science 34:1340-1350.

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Year Published: 2015

Predicting spatial distribution of postfire debris flows and potential consequences for native trout in headwater streams

Habitat fragmentation and degradation and invasion of nonnative species have restricted the distribution of native trout. Many trout populations are limited to headwater streams where negative effects of predicted climate change, including reduced stream flow and increased risk of catastrophic fires, may further jeopardize their persistence....

Sedell, Edwin R; Gresswell, Robert E.; McMahon, Thomas E.
Sedell, E.R., R.E. Gresswell, and T.E. McMahon. 2015. Predicting spatial distribution of postfire debris flows and potential consequences for native trout in headwater streams. Freshwater Science 34:1558-1570.

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Year Published: 2015

Incorporating future change into current conservation planning: Evaluating tidal saline wetland migration along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast under alternative sea-level rise and urbanization scenarios

In this study, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, quantified the potential for landward migration of tidal saline wetlands along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast under alternative future sea-level rise and urbanization scenarios. Our analyses focused exclusively on tidal saline wetlands (that is,...

Enwright, Nicholas M.; Griffith, Kereen T.; Osland, Michael J.
Enwright, N.M., Griffith, K.T., and Osland, M.J., 2015, Incorporating future change into current conservation planning—Evaluating tidal saline wetland migration along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast under alternative sea-level rise and urbanization scenarios: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 969, http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ds969.

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Year Published: 2015

Fire activity as a function of fire–weather seasonal severity and antecedent climate across spatial scales in southern Europe and Pacific western USA

Climate has a strong influence on fire activity, varying across time and space. We analyzed the relationships between fire–weather conditions during the main fire season and antecedent water-balance conditions and fires in two Mediterranean-type regions with contrasted management histories: five southern countries of the European Union (...

Urbieta, Itziar R.; Zavala, Gonzalo; Bedia, Joaquin; Gutierrez, Jose M.; San Miguel-Ayanz, Jesus; Camia, Andrea; Keeley, Jon E.; Moreno, Jose M.
Urbieta, IR, G Zavala, J Bedia, JM Gutierrez, JS Miguel-Ayanz, A Camia, JE Keeley, JM Moreno. 2015. Fire activity as a function of fire–weather seasonal severity and antecedent climate across spatial scales in southern Europe and Pacific western USA. Environmental Research Letters 10(11): 114031. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/10/11/114013

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Year Published: 2015

Recent Arctic tundra fire initiates widespread thermokarst development

Fire-induced permafrost degradation is well documented in boreal forests, but the role of fires in initiating thermokarst development in Arctic tundra is less well understood. Here we show that Arctic tundra fires may induce widespread thaw subsidence of permafrost terrain in the first seven years following the disturbance. Quantitative analysis...

Jones, Benjamin M.; Grosse, Guido; Arp, Christopher D.; Miller, Eric K.; Liu, Lingli; Hayes, Daniel J.; Larsen, Christopher F.

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Year Published: 2015

The rapid return of marine-derived nutrients to a freshwater food web following dam removal

Dam removal is increasingly being recognized as a viable river restoration action. Although the main beneficiaries of restored connectivity are often migratory fish populations, little is known regarding recovery of other parts of the freshwater food web, particularly terrestrial components. We measured stable isotopes in key components to the...

Tonra, Christopher M; Sager-Fradkin, Kimberly A.; Morley, Sarah A.; Duda, Jeffrey J.; Marra, Peter P.

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Year Published: 2015

Long-term effects of wildfire on greater sage-grouse - integrating population and ecosystem concepts for management in the Great Basin

Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; hereinafter, sage-grouse) are a sagebrush obligate species that has declined concomitantly with the loss and fragmentation of sagebrush ecosystems across most of its geographical range. The species currently is listed as a candidate for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)....

Coates, Peter S.; Ricca, Mark A.; Prochazka, Brian G.; Doherty, Kevin E.; Brooks, Matthew L.; Casazza, Michael L.
Coates, P.S., Ricca, M.A., Prochazka, B.G., Doherty, K.E., Brooks, M.L., and Casazza, M.L., 2015, Long-term effects of wildfire on greater sage-grouse—Integrating population and ecosystem concepts for management in the Great Basin: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015–1165, 42 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20151165.

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Year Published: 2015

Legacy effects of wildfire on stream thermal regimes and rainbow trout ecology: an integrated analysis of observation and individual-based models

Management of aquatic resources in fire-prone areas requires understanding of fish species’ responses to wildfire and of the intermediate- and long-term consequences of these disturbances. We examined Rainbow Trout populations in 9 headwater streams 10 y after a major wildfire: 3 with no history of severe wildfire in the watershed (unburned...

Rosenberger, Amanda E.; Dunham, Jason B.; Neuswanger, Jason R.; Railsback, Steven F.

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Year Published: 2015

Effects of land use on greenhouse gas fluxes and soil properties of wetland catchments in the Prairie Pothole Region of North America

Wetland restoration has been suggested as policy goal with multiple environmental benefits including enhancement of atmospheric carbon sequestration. However, there are concerns that increased methane (CH4) emissions associated with restoration may outweigh potential benefits. A comprehensive, 4-year study of 119 wetland catchments was conducted...

Tangen, Brian A.; Finocchiaro, Raymond G.; Gleason, Robert A.
Tangen, B. A., R. G. Finocchiaro, and R. A. Gleason. 2015. Effects of land use on greenhouse gas fluxes and soil properties of wetland catchments in the Prairie Pothole Region of North America. Science of the Total Environment, 533:391–409, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.06.148.

Filter Total Items: 13
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Date published: June 14, 2019

Spinning a Food Web Nearly Three Thousand Feet Underwater

USGS Scientists Jennie McClain-Counts and Amanda Demopoulos explain how this cruise will shed light on the relationships between living things thousands of feet beneath the ocean’s surface.

Date published: June 12, 2019

Seeking the Seeps

We're setting sail onboard the R/V Falkor for 21 days of deepsea science. Lead scientist Amanda Demopoulos shares what she's excited about as we head out into the Pacific.

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.