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The Ecosystems Mission Area provides impartial science information and tools to the Nation’s natural resource managers, with particular focus on the science needs of the Department of the Interior (DOI) and DOI bureaus to manage species, lands and priority ecosystems; fulfill treaty obligations; respond to and reduce threats to natural resources; and manage mineral and energy resources.
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Deserts are areas of the country which receive less than 10 in (250 mm) annual precipitation. In the United States, we have four distinct major deserts. Three are “hot deserts” because they receive precipitation in the summer months (Mojave, Sonoran, Chihuahuan) and one “cold desert” because it receives precipitation during the winter (Great Basin).
Coral reef ecosystems are declining worldwide, and in some places their survival is doubtful. This is both ecologically and economically troubling since coral reefs are the source of essential tourism revenue and local fisheries, as well as unique and rich ecosystems.
USGS research on coastlines is focused on understanding the natural conditions and the influence of human disturbances on species, populations, communities, habitats, and ecosystems.
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...
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).
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...
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.
Since the winter of 2006-07, millions of North American bats have died from white-nose syndrome (WNS). As of September 2015, bats with WNS were confirmed in 26 states and five Canadian provinces.
White-nose syndrome gets its name from the white fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which infects the skin on the muzzle, ears, and wings of hibernating bats and was ...
Avian malaria is a mosquito-borne disease of birds caused by a protozoan parasite (Plasmodium relictum). P. relictum reproduces in avian red blood cells. If the parasite load is sufficiently high, the bird loses red blood cells (anemia). Because red blood cells are critical for moving oxygen about the body, loss of these cells can lead to progressive weakness and, eventually...
USGS has been involved in the response to Rapid Ohi’a Death since its detection in 2015, and is part of the multi-organizational Rapid Ohi’a Death Working Group which was formed to share information and coordinate research, resource management and outreach activities.
USGS research focuses on developing and enhancing capabilities to forecast and predict invasive species establishment and spread. Early detection helps resource managers identify and report new invasive species, especially for cryptic species and those in very low abundance, to better assess risks to natural areas. Tracking the establishment and spread of existing and new invasive species is...
USGS researchers monitor native populations for threats of invading species to improving understanding of the ecology of invaders and factors in resistance of habitats to invasion.
Estimation of stream conditions in tributaries of the Klamath River, northern California
Because of their critical ecological role, stream temperature and discharge are requisite inputs for models of salmonid population dynamics. Coho Salmon inhabiting the Klamath Basin spend much of their freshwater life cycle inhabiting tributaries, but environmental data are often absent or only seasonally available at these locations. To address...Manhard, Christopher V.; Som, Nicholas A.; Jones, Edward C.; Perry, Russell W.
The utility of point count surveys to predict wildlife interactions with wind energy facilities: An example focused on golden eagles
Wind energy development is rapidly expanding in North America, often accompanied by requirements to survey potential facility locations for existing wildlife. Within the USA, golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) are among the most high-profile species of birds that are at risk from wind turbines. To minimize golden eagle fatalities in areas...Sur, Maitreyi; Belthoff, James R.; Bjerre, Emily R.; Millsap, Brian A.; Katzner, Todd E.
Trophic compression of lake food webs under hydrologic disturbance
The need to protect biostructure is increasingly recognized, yet empirical studies of how human exploits affect ecological networks are rare. Studying the effects of variation in human disturbance intensity from decades past can help us understand and anticipate ecosystem change under alleviated or amplified disturbance over decades to come. Here...Hansen, Adam G.; Gardner, Jennifer R.; Connelly, Kristin A.; Polacek, Matt; Beauchamp, David A.
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.
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.
The use of lead isotope analysis to identify potential sources of lead toxicosis in a juvenile bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) with ventricular foreign bodies
A male juvenile bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was admitted to the Wildlife Center of Virginia with a left humeral fracture a large quantity of anthropogenic debris in the ventriculus, a blood lead level of 0.616 ppm, and clinical signs consistent with chronic lead toxicosis. Because of the poor prognosis for recovery and release, the eagle...Franzen-Klein, Dana; McRuer, David; Slabe, Vincent; Katzner, Todd E.
Substrate and flow characteristics associated with White Sturgeon recruitment in the Columbia River Basin
A study was conducted to identify habitat characteristics associated with age 0+ White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus Richardson, 1863) recruitment in three reaches of the Columbia River Basin: Skamania reach (consistent recruitment), John Day reach (intermittent/inconsistent recruitment), and Kootenai reach (no recruitment). Our modeling...Hatten, James R.; Parsley, Michael; Barton, Gary; Batt, Thomas; Fosness, Ryan L.
Use of created snags by cavity‐nesting birds across 25 years
Snags are important habitat features for many forest‐dwelling species, so reductions in the number of snags can lead to the loss of biodiversity in forest ecosystems. Intentional snag creation is often used in managed forests to mitigate the long‐term declines of naturally created snags, yet information regarding the use of snags by wildlife...Barry, Amy M.; Hagar, Joan; Rivers, James W.
Effects of experimental removal of Barred Owls on population demography of Northern Spotted Owls in Washington and Oregon—2017 progress report
Populations of Northern Spotted Owls (Strix occidentalis caurina; hereinafter referred to as Spotted Owl) are declining throughout this subspecies’ geographic range. Evidence indicates that competition with invading populations of Barred Owls (S. varia) has contributed significantly to those declines. A pilot study in California showed that...Wiens, J. David; Dugger, Katie M.; Lesmeister, Damon B.; Dilione, Krista E.; Simon, David C.
MonitoringResources.org—Supporting coordinated and cost-effective natural resource monitoring across organizations
Natural resource managers who oversee the Nation’s resources require data to support informed decision-making at a variety of spatial and temporal scales that often cross typical jurisdictional boundaries such as states, agency regions, and watersheds. These data come from multiple agencies, programs, and sources, often with their own methods and...Bayer, Jennifer M.; Scully, Rebecca A.; Weltzin, Jake F.
Effects of the proposed California WaterFix North Delta Diversion on survival of juvenile Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, northern California
The California Department of Water Resources and Bureau of Reclamation propose new water intake facilities on the Sacramento River in northern California that would convey some of the water for export to areas south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (hereinafter referred to as the Delta) through tunnels rather than through the Delta. The...Perry, Russell W.; Pope, Adam C.
Examining speed versus selection in connectivity models using elk migration as an example
ContextLandscape resistance is vital to connectivity modeling and frequently derived from resource selection functions (RSFs). RSFs estimate relative probability of use and tend to focus on understanding habitat preferences during slow, routine animal movements (e.g., foraging). Dispersal and migration, however, can produce rarer, faster movements...Brennan, Angela; Hanks, Ephraim M.; Merkle, Jerod A.; Cole, Eric K.; Dewey, Sarah R.; Courtemanch, Alyson B.; Cross, Paul C.
Permanent Site: C2 East Transect; Depth: 15.1 Meters (49.7 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 0.7 Kilometers (0.4 Miles); Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.147841,-123.57596074; Site Description: One of our deepest sites. Substrate is all muddy sand. Both brown and red seaweeds are absent except for one acid kelp Desmarestia (0:38 seconds). Two...
Permanent Site: 4SP1 - East Transect; Depth: 5.5 Meters (18.1 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 0.8 Kilometers (0.5 Miles) East; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.15257, -123.556704; Site Description: The site has converted from gravel/cobble substrate to all sand. Since 2013, seaweed has been completely absent. However, this year three species...
Permanent Site: 4SP1 - West Transect; Depth: 6.2 Meters (20.2 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 0.8 Kilometers (0.5 Miles) East; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.15257, -123.557376; Site Description: This site has converted from gravel/cobble substrate to all sand. Since 2013, seaweed has been completely absent. However, this year six species of...
Permanent Control Site: GP2 East Transect; Depth: 13.2 Meters (43.2 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 18.8 Kilometers (11.7 Miles) east; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.12781102,-123.31645664; Site Description: This site was established as the eastern control. Substrate is mainly a gravel/sand mixture. A few large boulders are located off...
Permanent Control Site: GP2 West Transect; Depth: 12.7 Meters (41.6 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 18.8 Kilometers (11.6 Miles) east; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.12781102,-123.31712832; Site Description: This site was established as the eastern control. Substrate is mainly a gravel/sand/cobble mixture surrounding boulders. This year red...
American pika in the Northern Cascades. American pikas occupy talus slopes in mountain ecosystems throughout western North America.
Permanent Site: A2 East Transect; Depth: 12.9 Meters (42.3 Feet); Distance from river mouth: Kilometers 1.8 (1.1 Miles); Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.14130295, -123.58766124; Site Description: One of our deeper sites at over 40 feet. Sediment is primarily sand/sandy mud. Five species of seaweeds are present though not abundant. The two most...
Permanent Site: A2 West Transect; Depth: 12.8 Meters (42.0 Feet); Distance from river mouth: Kilometers 1.8 (1.1 Miles); Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.14130295, -123.5883331; Site Description: One of our deeper sites at over 40 feet. Sediment is primarily sand/sandy mud with scattered boulders. Seven species of seaweeds are present though not...
Permanent Site: C1 East Transect; Depth: 8.5 Meters (28.0 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 0.7 Kilometers (0.4 Miles); Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.14525225,-123.57294101; Site Description: Substrate is entirely sand. Current was high and contained lots of drift seaweed and eelgrass (0:05 seconds). In 2016 all seaweeds were absent but this...
Permanent Site: C1 West Transect; Depth: 9.3 Meters (30.4 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 0.7 Kilometers (0.4 Miles); Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.14525225,-123.57361291; Site Description: Substrate is entirely sand. Current was high and contained lots of drift seaweed and eelgrass (0:04, 0:38 seconds). Though seaweeds were absent in 2016...
Permanent Site: A1 East Transect; Depth: 7.7 Meters (25.4 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 1.8 Kilometers (1.1 Miles) West; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.13870775, -123.5855312; Site Description: Transect is in eastern part of Freshwater Bay. Sediment is primarily sand/sandy mud. Previous small boulders appear to still be buried. The sand on...
Permanent Site: A1 West Transect; Depth: 8.7 Meters (28.7 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 1.9 Kilometers (1.2 Miles) West; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.13870775, -123.586203; Site Description: Transect is in eastern part of Freshwater Bay. Sediment is primarily sand/sandy mud with patches of boulders. The sandy areas on the entire transect...
Handbook for sagebrush steppe restoration techniques can help sustain wildlife and western ecosystems
The sagebrush ecosystem in the western U.S is one of the largest ecosystems in North America, but it is also threatened from wildfire and invasive plants. “Restoration of these unique ecosystems will help sustain wildlife and livelihoods throughout the West," said David Pyke, the USGS ecologist and lead author of the final installment of a three-part sagebrush restoration handbook.
Olfactory Cues Provide Insight into Lamprey Behavior and Physiology
New research shows how river diversions may change water quality in estuaries.
A new study analyzes the genetic diversity and population structure of the California Ridgway’s rail, Rallus obsoletus, a state and federally-listed endangered bird. The results demonstrate that the so-called “rails” are experiencing negative genetic effects following more than a century of salt marsh habitat loss from agriculture, commercial salt production and urban development.
The U.S. Geological Survey is pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Christian Zimmerman as the new director of their Alaska Science Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Zimmerman succeeds Dr. Mark Shasby who held the position for the past six years.
Changes in rainfall and temperature are predicted to transform wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world within the century, a new study from the USGS and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley concludes.
A new study published in PLOS ONE demonstrates that current conservation planning efforts for waterbird habitat in the Central Valley can likely compensate for habitat loss through the middle of the century.
Managing 246 million acres: new science-based tools support Bureau of Land Management’s landscape approach
The U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Land Management today released a collaborative report with new information and tools to support effective management of millions of acres of BLM public lands. The report underscores the value of a landscape approach to management, and shows that the BLM manages some of the largest areas of intact public lands in the west.
Hundreds of articles have been written about the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history, at Indonesia’s Mt. Tambora just over 200 years ago. But for a small group of New England-based researchers, one more Tambora story needed to be told, one related to its catastrophic effects in the Gulf of Maine that may carry lessons for intertwined human-natural systems facing climate change today.
Internship Supports Youth, Tribes, and Fish
"It’s a grand slam for all involved,” said Dawn Childs, USGS Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units. “Recent high school graduates with special needs get real-world experience while helping USGS scientists on projects ranging from grizzly bears and energy to historic documents and bird migration. And a school system gets to successfully train students to enter the workforce."