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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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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.
Best management practices (BMPs) can be used to help prevent the spread of invasive species and help mitigate the consequences of invasive species once they have become established. BMPs provide a framework for natural resource managers to follow to effectively deal with, and prevent the spread of, invasive species.
The USGS develops strategies and techniques to understand and facilitate restoration of native species and habitats affected by invasive species. This is critical because control without restoration can leave the ecosystem vulnerable to subsequent reinvasion by the same or additional invasive species.
The USGS develops strategies and techniques to understand and facilitate restoration of native species and habitats affected by invasive species. This is critical because control without restoration can leave the ecosystem vulnerable to subsequent reinvasion by the same or additional invasive species.The USGS develops strategies and techniques to understand and facilitate restoration of native...
A focus of USGS research is to integrate control strategies where applicable to empower land and water
managers to respond rapidly to a wide variety of new invasions across the United States.
The National Wildlife Health Center, with help from partners and support from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, organized “Lake Michigan Volunteer AMBLE – Avian Monitoring for Botulism Lakeshore Events” in 2011. The goal of AMBLE was to empower concerned citizens to monitor bird health and beach conditions along the Lake Michigan shoreline, thus increasing knowledge of avian botulism...
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.
Ecological genomics predicts climate vulnerability in an endangered southwestern songbird
Few regions have been more severely impacted by climate change in the USA than the Desert Southwest. Here, we use ecological genomics to assess the potential for adaptation to rising global temperatures in a widespread songbird, the willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii), and find the endangered desert southwestern subspecies (E. t. extimus) most...Ruegg, Kristin; Bay, Rachael A.; Anderson, Eric C.; Saracco, James F.; Harrigan, Ryan J.; Whitfield, Mary J.; Paxton, Eben H.; Smith, Thomas B.
Ecosystems science: Genes to landscapes
Bountiful fisheries, healthy and resilient wildlife, flourishing forests and vibrant grasslands are coveted resources that benefit all Americans. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) science supports the conservation and management of the Nation’s fish and wildlife, and the landscapes they inhabit. Our biological resources—ecosystems and the wild things...
Characterization of Plasmodium relictum, a cosmopolitan agent of avian malaria
BackgroundMicroscopic research has shown that Plasmodium relictum is the most common agent of avian malaria. Recent molecular studies confirmed this conclusion and identified several mtDNA lineages, suggesting the existence of significant intra-species genetic variation or cryptic speciation. Most identified lineages have a broad range...Valkiunas, Gediminas; Ilgūnas, Mikas; Bukauskaitė, Dovilė; Fragner, Karin; Weissenböck, Herbert; Atkinson, Carter T.; Iezhova, Tatjana
Co‐occurrence dynamics of endangered Lower Keys marsh rabbits and free‐ranging domestic cats: Prey responses to an exotic predator removal program
The Lower Keys marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri) is one of many endangered endemic species of the Florida Keys. The main threats are habitat loss and fragmentation from sea‐level rise, development, and habitat succession. Exotic predators such as free‐ranging domestic cats (Felis catus) pose an additional threat to these endangered small...Cove, Michael V.; Gardner, Beth; Simons, Theodore R.; O'Connell, Allan F.
Rivers are social–ecological systems: Time to integrate human dimensions into riverscape ecology and management
Incorporation of concepts from landscape ecology into understanding and managing riverine ecosystems has become widely known as riverscape ecology. Riverscape ecology emphasizes interactions among processes at different scales and their consequences for valued ecosystem components, such as riverine fishes. Past studies have focused strongly on...Dunham, Jason B.; Angermeier, Paul L.; Crausbay, Shelley D.; Cravens, Amanda; Gosnell, Hannah; McEvoy, Jamie; Moritz, Max A.; Raheem, Nejem; Sanford, Todd
Biology and impacts of Pacific Islands invasive species. 14. Sus scrofa the feral pig (Artiodactyla: Suidae)
Feral pigs (Sus scrofa L.) are perhaps the most abundant, widespread, and economically significant large introduced vertebrate across the Pacific island region. Unlike many other nonnative invasive species, feral pigs have both cultural and recreational importance in the region, complicating their management. Today, Pacific island feral pigs...Wehr, Nathaniel H. ; Hess, Steven C.; Litton, Creighton M.
Permanent Site: H2 East Transect; Depth: 7.6 Meters (24.8 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 2.6 Kilometers (1.6 Miles) east; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.15008216,-123.53210661; Site Description: This site is medium to shallow depth. Substrate is mainly gravel with some sand, cobble and an occasional boulder and has not changed since dam...
Permanent Site: H2 West Transect; Depth: 7.3 Meters (23.8 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 2.6 Kilometers (1.6 Miles) east; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.15008216,-123.53277857; Site Description: This site is medium to shallow depth. Substrate is mainly gravel with some sand, cobble and an occasional boulder and has not changed since dam...
Permanent Site: K1 East Transect; Depth: 6.2 Meters (20.4 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 4.5 Kilometers (2.8 Miles) east; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.13592923,-123.5101581; Site Description: This is a shallow site. Sediment is a gravel/sand mixture. Both red (1:29 seconds) and brown seaweed was abundant but this year browns were...
Permanent Site: K1 West Transect; Depth: 5.5 Meters (18.0 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 4.5 Kilometers (2.8 Miles) east; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.13592923,-123.51082988; Site Description: This is a shallow site. Sediment is a gravel/sand mixture. Both red (0:20, 0:25 seconds) and brown seaweed was abundant with the browns more...
Permanent Site: F2 West Transect; Depth: 11.1 Meters (36.3 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 1.5 Kilometers (0.9 Miles) east; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.15672004,-123.55036603; Site Description: Substrate is mainly a gravel/cobble mixture with an occasional boulder. Seven species of brown seaweed were present. Seaweed was abundant but not...
Field crew install a Restoration Field Trial Network garden in the rangelands of Northern Arizona. Each garden in the network is examining seedlings and seeds in conjunction with restoration treatments to better...
Chart showing changes in vegetation density in the Mississippi River delta in Louisiana, May 2015-May 2016. From a USGS Open File Report published in July 2017 by co-authors Elijah Ramsey III and Amina Rangoonwala,
Curt Storlazzi of the USGS explains how the water cycle pulled him into oceanography, and how his personal interests parallel his profession.
Permanent Site: E2 West Transect; Depth: 14.6 Meters (47.9 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 0.9 Kilometers (0.5 Miles) east; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.15653002, -123.56197605; Site Description: This is one of our deeper sites. Substrate is mainly gravel/cobble with scattered boulders. Only a few small brown seaweeds were present (acid...
Permanent Site: H1 East Transect; Depth: 5.2 Meters (16.9 Feet); Distance from river mouth: 2.4 Kilometers (1.5 Miles) east; Pre/Post Dam Removal: 6 years post-dam removal; Lat/Long: 48.1479177,-123.53472865; Site Description: This is a shallow site and one of the farthest removed from the effects of the sediment plume outside of the control sites. Substrate remains mainly...
Caribou, North America’s wild reindeer, have lives apart from their famous role on Christmas Eve. Reindeer and caribou are large, cold-adapted, herding herbivores related to deer, elk and moose.
To learn more about how these arctic antler-bearers spend the other 364 days of the year, we talked to USGS caribou expert Dr. Layne Adams, who has studied these animals for more than 30 years.
Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative Launches Coastal Wetland Decision Support Tools
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.
Transporting Fish around Impassable Dams: An Opportunity and Challenge for Reintroductions
True or false? People are the leading cause of wildfires in the United States.
A group of turkeys is referred to as either a rafter or a gang. So this Thanksgiving, when celebrating with your own gang, remember the turkey as more than just the main course, but, as Benjamin Franklin said so many years ago, as a noble fowl of American tradition.
West Glacier, Mont. – Two rare alpine insects – native to the northern Rocky Mountains and dependent on cold waters of glacier and snowmelt-fed alpine streams – are imperiled due to climate warming induced glacier and snow loss according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners.
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.
True or False? People can catch white-nose syndrome from bats or the environment.
Plan also addresses other rangeland threats
Notes from field biologists studying the endangered Ridgway's rail.