Federally-listed as threatened since 1986, the Atlantic Coast Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) population comprises fewer than 2,000 breeding pairs, according to the most recent census data. These breeding pairs are the target of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) species recovery plan.
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 projections and watershed models to predict changes in flow and tree growth resulting from human-induced climate change. We have pioneered the use of cottonwood, a dominant riparian species, for tree ring analysis; this is a significant advance in arid regions where old trees of other species are scarce. Ongoing studies focus on rivers of the Upper Missouri Basin and the Tarim River in China.
Midwest Region scientists are conducting research to help restore the Great Lakes and advance the goals of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). Studies include aquatic invasive species control; restoration of native fish and habitats and coastal wetlands; monitoring phosphorus or other nutrients from watersheds to rivers to the Great Lakes to reduce harmful algal blooms.
USGS invasive species science in the Midwest Region is focused on early detection, risk assessment and development of new management control tools and strategies to prevent spread of invasives including Asian carp, invasive mussels, and Phragmites (an invasive wetland plant) in areas including Great Lakes and the Mississippi and Missouri River basins.
The maculata apple snail (Pomacea maculata) has invaded many coastal and some inland areas in south Louisiana. Reports have indicated that the freshwater snails have significantly reduced the amount of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and floating leaved vegetation (FLV) available for waterfowl and other wildlife.
Differentiating diploids from triploids at the earliest life stage possible allows for a more efficient use of resources including production time and rearing space. Thus, a reliable flow cytometric (FCM) method has been developed to discriminate triploids from diploids at the larval stage. In order to help simplify the process of differentiating triploids from diploids, we propose a simple website tool to help predict the number of triploid larvae from a spawn after FCM processing.
Mangroves have decreased worldwide due to human development, climate change and other forces. In southwest Florida, tremendous growth and development pressure has resulted in appreciable losses in mangrove wetlands.
Scientists and staff of the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center stationed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) do research on the systematics and conservation of vertebrate species and curate and manage the North American collections of Amphibian, Reptile, Bird, and Mammal specimens and associated records.
Dr. Nathan Stephenson and colleagues seek to determine what changes are occurring in forests, why they are occurring, and what they mean. For example, they have documented a long-term, apparently climatically-induced increase of tree mortality rates in otherwise undisturbed old forests across the western U.S., implying that these forests could become net sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Years after the last inmate departed Alcatraz Island, waterbirds like Black-crowned Night Herons and Snowy Egrets still make the forbidding island their home. The National Park Service has requested the aid of WERC’s Dr. Pete Coates to inform efforts to expand visitor access to the Island, and simultaneously maintain healthy waterbird populations.
The 64,000-square mile watershed that drains to the Chesapeake Bay is highly populated and has diverse land use, including forested, agricultural, and urbanized areas. Increased precipitation in the eastern United States over the last 100 years has affected stream flow and thus the loading of pollutants delivered to the bay. Such pollutants as suspended sediment and dissolved phosphorus and dissolved nitrogen enter the bay and cause environmental problems. These problems include rapid growth of algae because of the abundance of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), causing huge areas of the bay to be covered in “algal blooms.” Once these algae die, they sink and decompose, using dissolved oxygen in the water to decompose. The use of dissolved oxygen for decomposition depletes the water of this essential gas, which is needed for other aquatic life. The result is “dead zones” in the bay, that is, areas of the water where there is no oxygen, technically termed anoxic. Suspended sediment delivered to the bay during high stream discharge events blocks sunlight to submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), which need sunlight to grow.
Dr. Amy Vandergast and team develop genetic approaches for species detection, individual mark recapture, and studying ecological associations (such as predator/prey relationships). These techniques often increase monitoring effectiveness and efficiency when replacing or combining with standard field methodologies.