USGS Science at Ecological Society of America’s Conference

Release Date:

U.S. Geological Survey scientists will present their research at the Ecological Society of America meeting from Aug. 7-12, 2016, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The theme is "Novel Ecosystems in the Anthropocene." 

This year, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey will present their research at the 101st annual Ecological Society of America meeting from Aug. 7-12, 2016, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The theme is "Novel Ecosystems in the Anthropocene." ESA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of scientists founded in 1915 to promote ecological science. This USGS tipsheet presents a select few of our exciting presentations at the ESA meeting. For a complete listing of USGS-related presentations, please visit the 2016 ESA meeting website.

MONDAY

Bringing Together Science and Decision Making to Solve Conservation Problems

Ecological and conservation problems and decisions are increasingly complex due to climate change, increasing human-wildlife interactions, and rising global human demand for natural resources. Scientists are often called upon to help untangle and solve these problems. However, a failure to adequately understand and address a decision maker’s problem can result in scientists tackling the wrong ecological questions and building ineffective tools, and decision makers inefficiently using scarce funds. In this session, researchers from the USGS and the Interior Department’s Climate Science Centers (CSC) will explore the field of decision theory and decision analytics and how this can improve the effectiveness and usefulness of science and research for conservation and environmental management. Rachel Katz, session organizer, is a researcher supported by the Northeast CSC. (Monday, August 8, 2016: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM / Grand Floridian Blrm E, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center / https://eco.confex.com/eco/2016/webprogram/Session11669.html /rakatz@umass.edu)

TUESDAY

Not-So-Novel and Novel Communities in Semi-Arid Lands of Western North America: Past, Present, Future

The topic of past novel ecosystems has never gained much traction in the semi-arid lands of western North America. Complexities in physiography, geology and climate lead to plenty of opportunities for unique plant communities. The author will discuss the many changes from prehistoric times to the present in the deserts of the American West to illustrate the need for realistic and urgent prioritization of the science needed to support societal adaptation to novelties in grass invasion, fire risk, ecosystem processes and ecological services. (Tuesday, August 9, 2016: 2:50 PM/Grand Floridian Blrm G, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center/ https://eco.confex.com/eco/2016/webprogram/Paper58354.html/jlbetanc@usgs.gov)

WEDNESDAY

Stressors to Mangrove Ecosystems in the Southeast

Mangroves are foundation species in coastal ecosystems providing an estimated US $1.6 billion in ecosystem services worldwide. These services range from providing essential nursery habitat for marine organisms to carbon sequestration. Unfortunately, mangrove forests are declining as a result of myriad factors, many related to human activity. Ryann Rossi, a Ph.D. student with North Carolina State University and a fellow with the Interior Department’s Southeast Climate Science Center, will discuss results from a study to examine how different factors, including disease and changing water salinity, impact the mangroves. (Wednesday, August 10, 2016 / ESA Exhibit Hall, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center/ https://eco.confex.com/eco/2016/webprogram/Paper61575.html /ryann.rossi@gmail.com)

Assessing the Future of the Colorado Plateau: Interactions Among Changing Land-Use Practices and Increasing Aridity in a Sensitive Dryland

This study examined future overlap in land use types and overlap between future land-use and a projected drier climate in the Colorado Plateau. Results show that oil and gas development and recreation are increasing rapidly, and could interact or conflict in 8 percent of the Plateau. High population density and high recreation use are likely to co-occur over 6 percent of the Plateau. A fairly large area was identified as low-intensity for oil and gas development and recreation and low-intensity for oil and gas development potential and agriculture. None of the area was identified as low intensity for agriculture, population and recreation. Several land-use types are expected to increase strain on water resources and reduce native species habitat -- effects that will  likely be amplified by drier trends, presenting a challenge to policy-makers and managers. (Wednesday, August 10, 2016: 10:50 AM/Grand Floridian Blrm A, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center/ https://eco.confex.com/eco/2016/webprogram/Paper59283.html / scopeland@usgs.gov)

How Does Management Impact Northeastern Forests in a Changing Climate?

In the northeastern U.S., concerns about climate change have given rise to greater emphasis on ensuring that important forest resources are protected and able to survive into the future. However, understanding and choosing the best management actions to help protect these forests remain a challenge. Researchers conducted a study to examine how different management techniques impacted the composition, diversity and growth of three different forests distributed across the Northeast. Miranda T. Curzon, a researcher with the University of Minnesota and a fellow with the Interior Department’s Northeast Climate Science Center, will share findings from this research about the results of the different management actions. (Wednesday, August 10, 2016: 3:20 PM / 207/208, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center / https://eco.confex.com/eco/2016/webprogram/Paper61220.html /mcurzon@umn.edu)

THURSDAY

What Kind of Drought Matters?

How an ecosystem responds to drought depends on the structure of that ecosystem as well as the nature and severity of the drought. Land and resource managers must be able to understand how ecosystems might change in the future in order to make the best possible decisions. Scientists are examining the role that soil and root systems in different ecosystems have on determining how those areas will respond to warming temperatures and reduced precipitation. This research is sponsored by the Interior Department’s North Central Climate Science Center (NC CSC) and will be presented by Dennis Ojima, university director for the NC CSC. (Thursday, August 11, 2016: 8:00 AM / 124/125, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center / https://eco.confex.com/eco/2016/webprogram/Paper59684.html/Dennis.Ojima@colostate.edu)

Annual Bromus Invasions in the Western United States: Comparisons Among Species and Ecoregions

Invasive annual Bromus grasses are widely recognized for their potential to invade, dominate and alter ecosystems in the western U.S. Bromus invasion potential and threats to fire regimes vary among vegetation types and ecoregions, and among Bromus species. If a particular Bromus is a significant threat in one vegetation type or ecoregion, it does not mean that other Bromus will pose similar threats to other vegetation types or ecoregions. Soil moisture and temperatures also play a role. The refinement and validation of these models would improve their reliability in evaluating the relative potential for invasion and ecological impact of Bromus in western U.S. (Thursday, August 11, 2016: 8:00 AM/ Grand Floridian Blrm E, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center/ https://eco.confex.com/eco/2016/webprogram/Paper57924.html/mlbrooks@usgs.gov)

Assessing the Ecohydrological Future of Temperate Drylands: Drought, Vegetation Structure and Ecosystem Services in the 21st Century

Preliminary results suggest that available soil water during the growing season may decrease in most places worldwide except parts of Asia and northern North America, and the duration of droughts may increase.  Vegetation changes in response to climate change may exacerbate future drought. Climate change may decrease groundwater recharge in South America but increase it in North America and Central Asia. Anticipated changes in wet degree days and high temperatures may shift the areas that support rain-fed agriculture poleward. (Thursday, August 11, 2016: 2:30 PM/220-221, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center/ https://eco.confex.com/eco/2016/webprogram/Paper59464.html /jbradford@usgs.gov)

FRIDAY

After the Gray Phase: Can an Historic Mountain Pine Beetle Outbreak Influence Subsequent Patterns of Burn Severity?

Widespread forest mortality associated with recent ( around 1996-2006) native bark beetle outbreaks in western North America has raised concern about the severity of  subsequent fires. This study evaluated the effects of the beetle outbreak in the late 1970s-early 1980s and other variables on the burn severity of wildfires in ensuing decades (1988-2006.) It shows that an historic high severity beetle outbreak can influence the burn severity of wildfire for many years. This analysis of historic events can shed light on future disturbances to forests impacted by the recent beetle outbreak.  (Friday, August 12, 2016: 9:00 AM/Palm B, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center/ https://eco.confex.com/eco/2016/webprogram/Paper60905.html /assalt@usgs.gov)

The Science of Brucellosis Management in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Brucellosis is a contagious, costly disease of cattle, bison, elk, deer and swine. In animals, it causes decreased milk production, weight loss, loss of young, infertility and lameness. The disease can spread to humans, causing high fevers and other health issues. This talk examines the disease in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem where the disease has increased in prevalence in some elk herds with coincident increases in cattle outbreaks that result in trade restrictions, additional testing, and complete or partial depopulation. It reviews how disease research has interacted with management actions during the last 40 years given logistical and political constraints as well as scientific uncertainty. (Friday, August 12, 2016: 9:20 AM/Grand Floridian Blrm A, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center/ https://eco.confex.com/eco/2016/webprogram/Paper58554.html/pcross@usgs.gov)

Sylvatic Plague as a Threat to Ecosystems of Western North America

Plague, a highly lethal disease caused by a flea-borne bacterium, can infect more than 200 species of mammals, including humans. Its virulence, preference for varied hosts, and difficulty to detect at background levels make it a formidable challenge. This study of random sites in 5 western states found background levels of plague in a wide variety of ecosystems. The rate of mortality, even at background levels, can indirectly and directly affect ecosystems over the long term. Plague should be considered as a potential cause for a variety of conservation challenges in the western U.S.  Combinations of vector control, vaccines and genetic manipulations are being considered and tested for integrated plague management on moderate scales at core conservation sites for one endangered species affected by plague. (Friday, August 12, 2016: 9:50 AM/ Grand Floridian Blrm A, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center/ https://eco.confex.com/eco/2016/webprogram/Paper58078.html/bigginsd@usgs.gov)

Response of Red Squirrels to Climate Change in the Northeast

Research has shown that some wildlife populations are shifting locations in the face of climate change. For example, the American red squirrel, a nest predator, may shift to higher elevations in the future, potentially posing a threat to mountain birds. Researchers, supported by the Interior Department’s Northeast Climate Science Center, developed maps to show how the squirrel has shifted locations over the last two decades, possibly influenced by warmer temperatures as well as other changes to their spruce-fir habitat. (Friday, August 12, 2016 / ESA Exhibit Hall, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center / https://eco.confex.com/eco/2016/webprogram/Paper61832.html/mratnaswamy@usgs.gov)