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The USGS Ecosystems Mission Area, the biological research arm of the Department of the Interior (DOI), provides science to help America achieve sustainable management and conservation of its biological resources. This work is done within the broader mission of the USGS to serve the Nation with science that advances understanding of our natural resources and inform land and water stewardship.
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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The American woodcock is a popular game bird in much of eastern North America. The woodcock population declined between 1968- 2000 at an annual rate of 2.3% in the Eastern region and 1.6% in the Central region. Estimated annual survival of woodcock banded in the Eastern region was estimated to be 0.354 for the period 1967-74. Estimates for the migration period, a period when substantial...
The background information required to support listing decisions is not always current or available, and additional information or tools to model potential future condition can greatly improve the confidence in Species Status Assessments. We are working closely with multiple partners to provide updated information, model potential outcomes, and identify key uncertainties relevant to amphibian...
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been detected in 26 US states and three Canadian provinces in free-ranging cervids and/or commercial captive cervid facilities. CWD has been detected in free-ranging cervids in 24 states and two provinces and in captive cervid facilities in 17 states and three provinces.
Human activity has caused considerable ecological alterations in the Great Lakes region during the last 150 years and a majority of the most degraded habitats are found along urban coasts. Although strongly affected by human development, urban coasts are home to a variety of species with high ecological, economic, and societal value. USGS is remediating effects of human-induced ecosystem...
Improving Forage for Honey Bees on USDA Conservation Lands: A Pilot Study for Testing Sampling Methods and Hypothesis Development
Commercial beekeepers have been bringing their bees to the Northern Great Prairie (NGP) for many decades due to the availability of nectar and pollen-rich plants in abundant grasslands.
The current warming trend in the Arctic is unlike anything previously recorded and is affecting the region faster than any other place on Earth, bringing dramatic reductions in sea ice, altered weather, and thawing permafrost.
The USGS is developing science and decision support tools to inform policy and management decisions about various aspects of the energy development life cycle.
Establishing Molecular Methods to Quantitatively Profile Stomach Diet Items of Fish—Application to the Invasive Blue Catfish (Ictalurus furcatus)
The USGS Leetown Science Center (USGS LSC) scientists are collaborating with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDDNR) to develop and evaluate a genetic assay for blue catfish fish diets that will allow us to design a cost-effective monitoring program for determining the diet of wild fish. We will test the utility of this method and, once fully developed, these methods could be...
In 2009, the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program (MsCIP) was developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Mobile District in conjunction with other Federal and State agencies, to help reduce future storm damage along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Comprehensive Plan for MsCIP includes restoring the Mississippi barrier islands and over 3,000 acres of wetland and coastal forest...
This project is a collaborative effort between the USGS, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the State of Alabama funded by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to investigate viable, sustainable restoration options that protect and restore the natural resources of Dauphin Island, Alabama. The project is focused on restoration options that protect and restore habitat and living...
Collisons between wildlife and vehicles threaten many species, and can lead to human loss of life, injuries, and loss of property. USGS is developing models to help evaluate the effectiveness of wildlife protection zones and optimize the design of these protected areas.
Storm-related flooding can lead to the potential spread of nonindigenous (or non-native) aquatic species into waterways they have not been seen in before. The USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species program has developed an innovative mapping tool to help natural resource managers with post-storm nonindigenous aquatic species detection and assessment efforts.
Grand Canyon Map Portal
Click to launch the Grand Canyon Map Portal hosted by the U.S. Geological Survey's Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC). GCMRC is part of the River Ecosystem Science branch of the Southwest Biological Science Center (SBSC) and is based in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Grand Canyon Sandbar Monitoring
The Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, in conjunction with Northern Arizona University, monitors changes to sandbars along the Colorado River downstream of Glen Canyon Dam near Page, Arizona. Click here to launch the sandbar monitoring website and associated data applications for this on-going project.
The degree to which eelgrass on river deltas provides critical habitat for estuarine fishes, especially out‐migrating juvenile salmon, is an important scientific and management issue that bears on efforts to conserve and restore both eelgrass and fish.
DATA RELEASE - Spatial distribution and risk analysis data for diamond-backed terrapins relative to crab trapping, Savannah Coastal Refuge Complex, USA - Data
The data collected during the systematic inventory of diamond-backed terrapins includes information on terrapin detection in tidal creeks on refuges, crab pot numbers and locations, and a variety of environmental-, location-, and observer-related variables to examine the effects of both environmental conditions and observer bias on terrapin detection.
Solar and wind power development is increasing exponentially in the United States. However, these energy sources may affect wildlife, either directly from collisions with the turbine blades or photovoltaic arrays or indirectly from loss of habitat and migration routes. An important component to understanding the effects of these renewable energy projects on wildlife is accurate and precise...
Principal components of climate variation in the Desert Southwest for the time periods 1980-2010, 2040-2070 (RCP8.5) and (RCP4.5) - data release
Five principal components are used to represent the climate variation in an original set of 12 climate variables reflecting precipitation and temperature gradients. The dataset provides coverage for four regions (the Sonoran Desert, Mojave Desert, Colorado Plateau, and Southern Great Basin) and two time periods: current climate (defined as the 1980-2010 normal period) and future climate (...
Climate Distance Mapper is a spatial decision-support tool designed to help land managers match seed sources with restoration sites. Plant populations are commonly adapted to local climate gradients and frequently exhibit a home-site advantage. For this reason, climate information may serve as a proxy for local adaptation in restoration designs. Climate Distance Mapper allows users to rank the...
DATA RELEASE - Occurrence records and vegetation type data used for species distribution models in the western United States - Data
These data are species distribution information assembled for assessing the impacts of land-use barriers, facilitative interactions with other species, and loss of long-distance animal dispersal on predicted species range patterns for four common species in pinyon-juniper woodlands in the western United States.
These data were compiled for monitoring and analyzing the amount of windblown (aeolian) sediment at 100 cm height near Moab, UT. Big Springs Number Eight (BSNE) field aeolian passive sediment traps are summarized by location and time period in shapefiles. Shapefiles also include attributes used to analyze patterns in the aeolian transport.
Data collected in 2008-2010 to evaluate juvenile salmon and forage fish use of eelgrass on the Skagit River Delta, Washington State, USA
Data are abundance and body size (length) of juvenile salmon, forage fish, and other species captured with a lampara net in eelgrass and nearby unvegetated habitat on the Skagit River Delta monthly, April-September, 2008-2010, as well as vegetation status, water depth, temperature, salinity, and clarity for each fish netting event.
DATA RELEASE - Climate, hydrology and riparian vegetation composition data, Grand Canyon, Arizona - Data
These data were compiled for monitoring riparian vegetation change along the Colorado River. This file contains data recorded at 42 sandbars between Lees Ferry and Diamond Creek, AZ, which are annually sampled for both geomorphic and vegetation change. Field data contained here were collected from 2012 to 2016 in September and October of each year.
Wildlife Health Bulletins are distributed to natural resource/conservation agencies to provide and promote information exchange about significant wildlife health threats.
This is a low resolution poster map of the Grand Canyon region provided by the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (U.S. Geological Survey, Southwest Biological Science Center). The poster map was exported from ESRI ArcGIS Desktop as a 36-inch by 24-inch output at 96 dots per inch (dpi). This map is provided for general reference only and should be used for navigational purposes.
The Grand Canyon Shaded Relief base map is provided by the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research (Southwest Biological Science Center) as a resource for identifying and locating important places of interest along the Colorado River and across the Grand Canyon region.
The NWHC developed the Wildlife Health Information Sharing Partnership – event reporting system (WHISPers) to increase public awareness of wildlife disease events and promote collaboration and data sharing among wildlife professionals. It is a partner driven tool that provides a dynamic, timely, searchable web-based system for visualizing and accessing data on wildlife disease events nationwide.
Interactive map of the distribution of quagga mussels in North America. This map is provided by the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species program.
Interactive map of the distribution of zebra mussels in North America. This map is provided by the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species program.
In September 1960, the 86th Congress passed Public Law 86-686 to facilitate cooperation between the Federal government, colleges and universities, the States, and private organizations for Cooperative Unit Programs of research and education relating to fish and wildlife, and for other purposes. The Cooperative Research Units originated in the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the mid 1930s
Suisun Marsh is a critical habitat for wintering and breeding waterbirds in California. USGS is working with the California DWR to examine the trends in bird decline and to assess the habitat factors driving long-term survival of waterfowl, rails, and other birds in this important area.
This U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Western Ecological Research Center (WERC) story map details how partners are using science and management to maintain and establish new bird nesting colonies in support of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
Regeneration of Metrosideros polymorpha forests in Hawaii after landscape‐level canopy dieback
Questions(a) Have Metrosideros polymorpha trees become re‐established in Hawaiian forests previously impacted by canopy dieback in the 1970s? (b) Has canopy dieback expanded since the 1970s? (c) Can spatial patterns from this dieback be correlated with habitat factors to model future dieback in this area?Study SiteAn 83,603 ha study...Mertelmeyer, Linda; Jacobi, James D.; Mueller-Dombois, Dieter; Brinck, Kevin W.; Boehmer, Hans Juergen
Environmental DNA as a tool to help inform zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha, management in inland lakes
Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are an aquatic invasive species that plague much of North America and are difficult to impossible to eradicate once they become established. Therefore, prevention and monitoring are key elements in the control of these organisms. Traditional microscopy is commonly used in monitoring but requires the presence of...Amberg, Jon J.; Merkes, Christopher M.; Stott, Wendylee; Rees, Christopher B.; Erickson, Richard A.
Pesticides and pollinators: A socioecological synthesis
The relationship between pesticides and pollinators, while attracting no shortage of attention from scientists, regulators, and the public, has proven resistant to scientific synthesis and fractious in matters of policy and public opinion. This is in part because the issue has been approached in a compartmentalized and intradisciplinary way,...Sponsler, Douglas B.; Grozinger, Christina M.; Hitaj, Claudia; Rundlof, Maj; Botias, Cristina; Code, Aimee; Lonsdorf, Eric V.; Melthapoulos, Andony P.; Smith, David J.; Suryanarayanan, Sainath; Thogmartin, Wayne E.; Williams, Neal M.; Zhang, Minghua; Douglas, Margaret R.
Stream metabolism increases with drainage area and peaks asynchronously across a stream network
Quantifying the spatial and temporal dynamics of stream metabolism across stream networks is key to understanding carbon cycling and stream food web ecology. To better understand intra-annual temporal patterns of gross primary production (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (ER) and their variability across space, we continuously measured dissolved...Mejia, Francine H.; Fremier, Alexander K.; Benjamin, Joseph R.; Bellmore, J. Ryan; Grimm, Adrianne Z.; Watson, Grace A.; Newsom, Michael
Characterizing 12 years of wildland fire science at the U.S. Geological Survey: Wildland Fire Science Publications, 2006–17
Wildland fire characteristics, such as area burned, number of large fires, burn intensity, and fire season duration, have increased steadily over the past 30 years, resulting in substantial increases in the costs of suppressing fires and managing damages from wildland fire events (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2017)....Steblein, Paul F.; Miller, Mark P.
Vegetation and precipitation shifts interact to alter organic and inorganic carbon storage in cold desert soils
Dryland ecosystems are experiencing shifts in rainfall and plant community composition, which are expected to alter cycling and storage of soil carbon (C). Few experiments have been conducted to examine long‐term effects on (1) soil organic C (SOC) pools throughout the soil profile, and (2) soil inorganic C (SIC) pools as they relate to dynamic...Huber, David P.; Lohse, Kathleen A.; Commendador, Amy; Joy, Stephen; Aho, Ken A.; Finney, Bruce P.; Germino, Matthew J.
Validating a time series of annual grass percent cover in the sagebrush ecosystem
We mapped yearly (2000–2016) estimates of annual grass percent cover for much of the sagebrush ecosystem of the western United States using remotely sensed, climate, and geophysical data in regression-tree models. Annual grasses senesce and cure by early summer and then become beds of fine fuel that easily ignite and spread fire...Boyte, Stephen P.; Wylie, Bruce K.; Major, Donald J.
Patterns of mercury and selenium exposure in Minnesota common loons
Common loons (Gavia immer) are at risk of elevated dietary mercury (Hg) exposure in portions of their breeding range. To assess the level of risk among loons in Minnesota (USA), we investigated loon blood Hg concentrations in breeding lakes across Minnesota. Loon blood Hg concentrations were regressed on predicted Hg concentrations in standardized...Kenow, Kevin P.; Houdek, Steven C.; Fara, Luke J.; Erickson, Richard A.; Gray, Brian R.; Harrison, Travis J.; Monson, Bruce; Henderson, Carrol L.
Trends in landbird density at two national parks in fragmented, mixed-use landscapes of the Pacific Northwest
National parks play a key role in conserving species by providing landscapes where threats from anthropogenic disturbance are reduced. In a recent study of 3 large wilderness parks in the Pacific Northwest, nearly all landbird species were found to be stable or increasing. Nonetheless, contemporary results from the Breeding Bird Survey and mark-...Holmgren, M.; Wilkerson, R.; Siegel, R.; Ransom, J.; Jenkins, Kurt J.; Boetsch, J.; Ray, Chris; Holmgren, Mandy; Wilkerson, Robert L.; Siegel, Rodney B.; Boetsch, John R.; Jenkins, Kurt J.; Ransom, Jason I.
Evidence for a duplicated mitochondrial region in Audubon’s shearwater based on MinION sequencing
Mitochondrial genetic markers have been extensively used to study the phylogenetics and phylogeography of many birds, including seabirds of the order Procellariiformes. Evidence suggests that part of the mitochondrial genome of Procellariiformes, especially albatrosses, is duplicated, but no DNA fragment covering the entire duplication has been...Torres, Lucas; Welch, Andreanna J.; Zanchetta, Catherine; Chesser, Terry; Manno, Maxime; Donnadieu, Cecile; Bretagnolle, Vincent; Pante, Eric
An improved mechanical owl for efficient capture of nesting raptors
Scientific study of raptors often requires the use of a lure to capture individuals for marking or collecting various data and samples. Live lure owls in the genus Bubo are commonly used with mist nets or dho-gazas to trap nesting raptors, but the use of these live lures presents ethical, logistical, and financial challenges. Although...Jensen, Meghan K.; Hamburg, Shanti D.; Rota, Christopher T.; Brinker, David F.; Coles, Dustin L.; Manske, Mark A.; Slabe, Vincent A.; Stuber, Matthew J.; Welsh, Amy B.; Katzner, Todd E.
Adaptive variation, including local adaptation, requires decades to become evident in common gardens
Population‐level adaptation to spatial variation in factors such as climate and soils is critical for climate‐vulnerability assessments, restoration seeding, and other ecological applications in species management, and the underlying information is typically based on common‐garden studies that are short duration. Here, we show >20 yr were...Germino, Matthew J.; Moer, Ann M.; Sands, Alan R.
GenEst, a generalized estimator of wildlife mortality at renewable energy facilities.
SSR_pipeline: Computer Software for the Identification of Microsatellite Sequences from Paired-End Illumina High-Throughput DNA Sequence Data
SSR_pipeline is a flexible set of programs designed to efficiently identify simple sequence repeats (SSRs; for example, microsatellites) from paired-end high-throughput Illumina DNA sequencing data.
Software to Estimate Bird and Bat Fatality at Wind Farms
Aquatic Pathogen Template Database (AquaPathogen X)
The InVEST tool allows researchers to evaluate relationships between land management actions and wild bee populations.
Tool to Evaluate Wildlife Fatalities at Wind-Power Facilities
These images show grass carp larvae from the Maumee River. Characteristics of larval grass carp include overall length (left), skeletal muscle development (center) and presence of an eye spot that lacks pigmentation (right; pigment starting to develop on lower eye).
Blended photo of a wind and solar energy facilities.
Who's who? These are print casts of front and back paw prints of a grizzly bear (top) and black bear (bottom). The casts on the right are the front paws of each species; the casts on the left are the back. How do you tell?
Grizzly/brown bear toes are closer together and form a fairly straight line above the paw pad. On a black bear, the toes are further apart and...
After Hurricane Michael obliterated Fish Inn, the sea turtle research team's field station, team members salvaged some of the building's floor tiles and made this sea turtle mosaic, which they plan to eventually install in a new field station.
Location (A, B) of Pend Oreille River and tributaries assessed in this study as a spatial network of habitat patches and barriers (C) for which reintroduction of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) (D) was simulated. Bull trout illustration by Joseph R. Tomelleri.
Root nodules are a symbiotic relationship between a plant and nitrogen-fixing bacteria. A symbiotic relationship is one where both organisms benefit. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria change inorganic nitrogen from the air into ammonia, a form of nitrogen most organisms can use. They also use a process called rock dissolution to release other nutrients, such as calcium and...
Can you hear the difference between the non-native Cuban treefrog and two common Louisiana native treefrogs? Cuban treefrogs’ call is distinctive. Biologist Paul Moler of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recorded them in South Florida. Credit: Paul Moler, used with permission.
Map of Alaska showing probability (%) of change occurrence. Insets show fire boundaries from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Large Fire Database and Landsat 8 imagery (bottom right; 2016) north of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Squirrel treefrogs are also native to Florida and Louisiana. Hear them calling from ditches, puddles and other ephemeral pools of water. Credit: Paul Moler, used with permission.
The alfalfa leafcutting bee (Megachile rotundata) is an introduced species common to Southwest Idaho. They originate from the old world, most likely from northeastern Africa or the Middle East. These bees are successful pollinators of various crops and have been imported to North America for use in agriculture and beekeeping.
Budget Focuses on Priorities Supporting American Energy Enterprise, National Security, and Natural Hazard Response Efforts
A genetic analysis conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey recently confirmed that larval, or newly hatched, fish collected from the Maumee River during the summer of 2018 are grass carp, one species of invasive Asian carps that threaten the Great Lakes. The Maumee River is a tributary to Lake Erie.
Genetics study reveals good news for the southern California population of the California gnatcatcher
Results of a recent study by WERC scientists are providing helpful information to resource managers as they work to protect important habitat.
Recovery of vegetation on plugged and abandoned oil and gas well sites on the Colorado Plateau is influenced by time, moisture, nonnative plants and the type of plant community that was originally in place before well sites were constructed, according to a recently published study by the U.S. Geological Survey.
USGS’ preliminary storm trackers show potential for subtle damage in natural areas
Do you eat fruits and vegetables? What about nuts? If so, you can thank an insect pollinator, usually a honey bee. These small insects play a major role in pollinating the world’s plants, including those we eat regularly. They also increase our nation’s crop values each year by more than 15 billion dollars.
A recently published paper on the global status of turtles and their ecological roles generated quite a bit of media interest.
Potential reintroduction of the endangered California Condor to parts of its historic range in the Pacific Northwest would benefit from information on possible threats that could challenge recovery efforts. Exposure to environmental contaminants is a key limiting factor for condor recovery in its southern range.
With labs that rival those of your favorite crime scene investigator and tech that would make even the most resourceful problem-solving secret agent jealous, the USGS is developing and using tools that help answer some of the most pressing questions being asked by wildlife, natural resource, and land managers. Here are just a few:
Many amphibians are either too small or too slow to avoid an oncoming car. For some populations of the Federally threatened Yosemite toad (Anaxyrus canorus), this has meant increased mortality from vehicle strikes in addition to other threats from disease, drought, and habitat loss.
A new genetic analysis of invasive pythons captured across South Florida finds the big constrictors are closely related to one another. In fact, most of them are genetically related as first or second cousins, according to a study by wildlife genetics experts at the U.S. Geological Survey.
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.
Ecosystems provides scientific information and decision support to meet Interior’s shared responsibility to manage land and species, fulfill treaty obligations, develop energy and mineral resources on Interior lands, and supply water for irrigation and other human needs. Our main Interior Department partners are listed below. Additional partners are listed throughout our web pages.