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Forests are of tremendous ecological and economic importance. They provide natural places for recreation, clean drinking water, and important habitats for fish and wildlife. However, the warmer temperatures and harsher droughts in the west that are related to climate change are causing die-offs of many trees. Outbreaks of insects, like the mountain pine beetle, that kill trees are also more likely in warmer, drier conditions. To maintain healthy and functioning forest ecosystems, one action forest managers can take is to make management decisions that will help forests adapt to future climate change. However, adaptation is a process based on genetic change and few tools are currently available for managers to use...
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The Southeastern U.S. spans broad ranges of physiographic settings and contains a wide variety of aquatic systems that provide habitat for hundreds of endemic aquatic species that pose interesting challenges and opportunities for managers of aquatic resources, particularly in the face of climate change. For example, the Southeast contains the southernmost populations of the eastern brook trout and other cold-water dependent species. Climate change is predicted to increase temperatures in the South and is likely to have a substantial effect on extant populations of cold-water biota. Thus, aquatic managers are tasked with developing strategies for preserving cold-water dependent biota, such as eastern brook trout,...
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Sport fisheries of lakes are embedded in complex system of ecological and social interactions. The multiple drivers that affect lake sport fisheries, along with the complex interactions within lakes, make it difficult to forecast changes in sport fisheries and plan adaptive responses to build resilience of these important resources. Resilience involves managing with an eye toward critical thresholds for behavior of ecosystems. Project researchers are working to develop quantitative tools for assessment of thresholds in sport fisheries that can be used by management agencies to evaluate potential impacts of climate change mediated through species and habitat interactions. Several outputs of the project will be adaptable...
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Northeastern boreal forests are an important habitat type for many wildlife species, including migratory birds and moose. These animals play vital roles in the boreal forest ecosystem, are a source of pleasure for bird and wildlife watchers, and contribute to tourism revenue for many communities. However, moose and migratory birds are thought to be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. For example, in New York’s Adirondack Park system, five species of boreal birds have shown occupancy declines of 15% or more. Meanwhile, moose are threatened by winter ticks that thrive in warmer climates and spread disease. A 2018 New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) report found that there...
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Inland fish populations are a crucial resource to humans and communities around the world. Recreational fishing throughout the United States, for example, provides important revenue to local and state economies; globally, inland fisheries are a vital food source for billions of people. Warming temperatures and changing precipitation patterns, however, are already causing significant changes to fish communities worldwide. Since the mid-1980s, scientists have projected the effects of climate change on inland fish, and in more recent years, documentation of impacts has increased. However, the number of documented impacts of climate change on inland fish remains low. A comprehensive understanding of how climate change...
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Determining which species, habitats, or ecosystems are most vulnerable to climate change enables resource managers to better set priorities for conservation action. To address the need for information on vulnerability, this research project will leverage the expertise of university partners to inform the North Central Climate Science Center on how to best assess the vulnerability of elements of biodiversity to climate and land use change in order to inform the development and implementation of management options. Outcomes from this activity will include 1) a framework for modeling vegetation type and species response to climate and land use change, 2) an evaluation of existing alternative vegetation and species...
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Researchers with the North Central Climate Science Center have made substantial progress in assessing the impacts of climate and land use change on wildlife and ecosystems across the region. Building on this progress, researchers will work with stakeholders to identify adaptation strategies and inform resource management in the areas that will be most affected by changing conditions. There are several components of this project. First, researchers will use the Department of Interior “resource briefs” as a mechanism to communicate information to resource managers on climate and land use change and their impacts to resources. These briefs will support coordinated management of ecosystems that contain public, private,...
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Covering 120 million acres across 14 western states and 3 Canadian provinces, sagebrush provides critical habitat for species such as pronghorn, mule deer, and sage-grouse – a species of conservation concern. The future of these and other species is closely tied to the future of sagebrush. Yet this important ecosystem has already been affected by fire, invasive species, land use conversion, and now, climate change. In the western U.S., temperatures are rising and precipitation patterns are changing. However, there is currently a limited ability to anticipate the impacts of climate change on sagebrush. Current methods suffer from a range of weakness that limits the reliability of results. In fact, the current uncertainty...
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Hawaiʻi is considered a worldwide biodiversity hotspot, with nearly 90 percent of its native plants found nowhere else in the world. However, about half of these native plants are imperiled by threats including human development, non-native species, and climate change. Through this project, scientists modeled the relative vulnerability of over 1,000 native plant species to the effects of climate change. A panel of experts in Hawaiian plant species assisted with the development of the model and verified its results. From the model, researchers were able to develop a vulnerability score for each plant species and identify categories of species with high, medium, and low vulnerability to climate change. This information...
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Appropriate ecological indicators of climate change can be used to measure concurrent changes in ecological systems, inform management decisions, and potentially to project the consequences of climate change. However, many of the available indicators for North American birds do not account for imperfect observation. We propose to use correlated-detection occupancy models to develop indicators from the North American Breeding Bird Survey data. The indicators will be used to test hypotheses regarding changes in range and distribution of breeding birds. The results will support the Northeast Climate Science Center’s Science Agenda, including the science priority: researching ecological vulnerability and species response...
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Throughout its native range in the Eastern U.S., the brook trout is a culturally and economically important species that is sensitive to warming stream temperatures and habitat degradation. The purpose of this assessment was to determine the impacts that projected future land use and climate changes might have on the condition of stream habitat to support self-sustaining brook trout populations. The study region encompassed the historic native range of brook trout, which includes the northeastern states and follows the Appalachian Mountains south to Georgia, where the distribution is limited to higher elevation streams with suitable water temperatures. Relationships between recent observations of brook trout and...
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The distribution and abundance of cheatgrass, an invasive annual grass native to Eurasia, has increased substantially across the Intermountain West, including the Great Basin. Cheatgrass is highly flammable, and as it has expanded, the extent and frequency of fire in the Great Basin has increased by as much as 200%. These changes in fire regimes are associated with loss of the native sagebrush, grasses, and herbaceous flowering plants that provide habitat for many native animals, including Greater Sage-Grouse. Changes in vegetation and fire management have been suggested with the intent of conserving Greater Sage-Grouse. However, the potential responses of other sensitive-status birds to these changes in management...
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Cheatgrass began invading the Great Basin about 100 years ago, changing large parts of the landscape from a rich, diverse ecosystem to one where a single invasive species dominates. Cheatgrass dominated areas experience more fires that burn more land than in native ecosystems, resulting in economic and resource losses. Therefore, the reduced production, or absence, of cheatgrass in previously invaded areas during years of adequate precipitation could be seen as a windfall. However, this cheatgrass dieoff phenomenon creates other problems for land managers like accelerated soil erosion, loss of early spring food supply for livestock and wildlife, and unknown recovery pathways. We used satellite data and scientific...
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The goal of this project is to inform implementation of the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee (GYCC) Whitebark Pine (WBP) subcommittee’s “WBP Strategy” based on climate science and ecological forecasting. Project objectives are to: 1. Forecast ecosystem processes and WBP habitat suitability across the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) under alternative IPCC future scenarios; 2. Improve understanding of possible response to future climate by analyzing WBP/climate relationships in past millennia; 3. Develop WBP management alternatives; 4. Evaluate the alternatives under IPCC future scenarios in terms of WBP goals, ecosystem services, and costs of implementation; and 5. Draw recommendations for implementation...
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California’s Central Valley is a nexus for water resources in the state, draining the Sacramento and San Joaquin River watersheds. Urban centers, agricultural operations, and the environment all compete for limited water, and demand is expected to only increase as the population grows and agriculture intensifies. At the same time, the water supply is projected to decrease as temperatures rise, precipitation patterns change, and the frequency of extreme droughts increases. The Central Valley also provides critical wetland habitats to migratory waterbirds, and wetland managers require information on how to best use water resources to support wildlife objectives, particularly during drought. This project seeks to...
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Agriculture and agroforestry (tree cultivation) are important activities for the Marshall Islands and other small islands to ensure food security and human health. The Marshallese have a long tradition of interplanting food-producing trees such as coconuts, breadfruit, and pandanus with bananas and root and vegetable crops. Locally grown food crops support community self-sufficiency, promote good nutrition, and can also serve as windbreaks and stabilize shorelines to lessen storm damage and erosion. However, climate change is posing serious challenges for growers, as they struggle to adapt to climate impacts including saltwater intrusion, changing precipitation and temperature patterns, and the spread of invasive...
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Many shorebirds and nearshore waterbirds are of conservation concern across the Gulf of Mexico due to stressors such as human disturbance, predation, and habitat loss and degradation. Conservation and protection of these birds is important for the functioning of healthy ecosystems and for maintaining biodiversity in North America. Consequently, resource managers along the gulf need decision-aiding tools that can efficiently help to answer important conservation questions for different species (e.g. which areas and how much area should be targeted by management actions to meet a particular species’ needs). To address this need, project researchers are developing statistical models that will help identify habitat...
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Ducks and other waterfowl in the U.S. are valued and enjoyed by millions of birdwatchers, artists, photographers and citizens for their beauty and appeal. Waterfowl also provide game for hunters throughout the country and act as an important source of revenue for states and local communities. Loss of habitat and migration corridors due to land use changes and changes in climate threaten these birds, however more scientific information is needed to understand these processes. This project used available annual surveys of duck counts, along with data on the location and availability of ponds and temperature and precipitation patterns, to model where across the continental landscape waterfowl were present and if their...
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USFWS Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) throughout the Mississippi River Basin (MRB) have identified high nutrient runoff, a major contributor to Gulf hypoxia, and declines in wildlife populations (especially grassland and riparian birds), as conservation challenges requiring collaborative action. This project will develop a spatial decision support system (DSS) to address these issues. The DSS will be designed to identify MRB watersheds where application of conservation practices can (1) reduce nutrient export to the Gulf hypoxia zone and (2) enhance conservation for grassland and riparian birds, based on (3) identifying landowners willing and capable of implementing these practices. The DSS will identify...
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In this proposal we investigate how tree selection at the local scale affects biodiversity and ecosystem services (Obj. 1). We then look regionally to determine the extent to which trees in cities can be used to predict heat-related threats to rural forests (Obj. 2). We will leverage ongoing investigations of heat-related stress and pest outbreaks in urban and rural forests to develop management recommendations for both systems. These ongoing projects provide a knowledge-base, infrastructure (e.g. study sites), equipment (e.g. Li-Cor Photosynthesis System), and outreach opportunities that will extend the impact of this project (see Synergistic and Future Funding section below). We will also convene a working group...


map background search result map search result map Modeling Effects of Climate Change on Cheatgrass Die-Off Areas in the Northern Great Basin USGS-USFS Partnership to Help Managers Evaluate Conservation Strategies for Aquatic Ecosystems based on Future Climate Projections Understanding the Links between Climate and Waterbirds across North America Assessing the Vulnerability of Vegetation to Future Climate in the North Central U.S. Projected Vulnerability of Brook Trout to Climate and Land Use Changes in the Eastern U.S. (Regional Assessment) Establishing Climate Change Vulnerability Rankings for Hawaiian Native Plants Science and Forecasting to Inform Implementation of the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee’s Whitebark Pine Management Strategy Science to Assess Future Conservation Practices for the Mississippi River Basin Climate Change and Resilience of Sport Fisheries in Lakes Developing an Agroforestry Dashboard for the Marshall Islands Avian Indicators of Climate Change Based on the North American Breeding Bird Survey Forecasting Future Changes in Sagebrush Distribution and Abundance Consequences of Urbanization and Climate Change on Human and Ecosystem Health The Impact of Drought on Waterbirds and Their Wetland Habitats in California’s Central Valley Global Analysis of Trends in Projected and Documented Effects of Climate Change on Inland Fish Using Genetic Information to Understand Drought Tolerance and Bark Beetle Resistance in Whitebark Pine Forests Identifying Conservation Objectives for the Gulf Coast Habitats of the Black Skimmer and Gull-billed Tern Integrating Climate Change Research and Planning to Inform Wildlife Conservation in the Boreal Forests of the Northeastern U.S. Foundational Science Area: Climate Adaptation Strategies for Wildlife and Habitats in the North Central U.S. Using Genetic Information to Understand Drought Tolerance and Bark Beetle Resistance in Whitebark Pine Forests Integrating Climate Change Research and Planning to Inform Wildlife Conservation in the Boreal Forests of the Northeastern U.S. Modeling Effects of Climate Change on Cheatgrass Die-Off Areas in the Northern Great Basin Establishing Climate Change Vulnerability Rankings for Hawaiian Native Plants The Impact of Drought on Waterbirds and Their Wetland Habitats in California’s Central Valley Climate Change and Resilience of Sport Fisheries in Lakes Developing an Agroforestry Dashboard for the Marshall Islands Identifying Conservation Objectives for the Gulf Coast Habitats of the Black Skimmer and Gull-billed Tern Forecasting Future Changes in Sagebrush Distribution and Abundance Projected Vulnerability of Brook Trout to Climate and Land Use Changes in the Eastern U.S. (Regional Assessment) USGS-USFS Partnership to Help Managers Evaluate Conservation Strategies for Aquatic Ecosystems based on Future Climate Projections Foundational Science Area: Climate Adaptation Strategies for Wildlife and Habitats in the North Central U.S. Consequences of Urbanization and Climate Change on Human and Ecosystem Health Assessing the Vulnerability of Vegetation to Future Climate in the North Central U.S. Science and Forecasting to Inform Implementation of the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee’s Whitebark Pine Management Strategy Science to Assess Future Conservation Practices for the Mississippi River Basin Avian Indicators of Climate Change Based on the North American Breeding Bird Survey Understanding the Links between Climate and Waterbirds across North America Global Analysis of Trends in Projected and Documented Effects of Climate Change on Inland Fish