The 2017 hurricane season has heavily impacted many Caribbean countries and coastal U.S. states. Several scientists have joined together to study the impacts of these hurricanes on landscape changes and hydrology.
The team plans to compile and process satellite data and streamflow records to provide information on landscape recovery rates and changes to eco-hydrologic processes following the hurricane events.
The scientists will analyze time-lapse photography, multi-scale satellite-derived images and data, and hydro-meteorological datasets. Satellite data is continuously collected and hydrologic data collection, although compromised due to some storm damage of stream gaging stations, is also ongoing. On-site data collection is expected to start as soon as possible, with outputs including data syntheses and analyses expected starting in the summer of 2018.
Partners will include Greg Guannel of the Caribbean Green Technology Center, who will be leading local data collection and interpretation, as well as other EROS researchers, who will help develop satellite-derived environmental parameters such as phenology metrics (seasonal cycles of natural systems) and evapotranspiration (ET).
Results will help inform planning and management for these major storm events.
Image: GOES-16 satellite captured this geocolor image of three hurricanes in the tropical Atlantic on the afternoon of September 8, 2017. Left to right, they are: Hurricane Katia, which made landfall in Mexico that night. Hurricane Irma, which was passing between Cuba and the Bahamas; and Hurricane José, which was churning in the open ocean.
Heading for Higher Ground: Adapting Marsh Bird Management as Sea Level Rises Presenters/Authors: Paul J. Taillie, Southeast CSC Global Change Fellow; Christopher E. Moorman, Southeast CSC Faculty Affiliate; Benjamin Poulter, North Central CSC Funded Researcher Sunday, September 24, 2017: 3:40 PM; Rooms 18 – Cochiti and 30 – Taos Combined Symposium: Conservation and Ecology of Birds II
Picture: Black Skimmers, Georgia; Credit: Alan Cressler
Published Date: November 18th, 2017
The USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) website, which provides information on research and activities from NCCWSC and the DOI Climate Science Centers (CSCs), has been revamped. The website has a fresh new look and a more user-friendly interface, with improvements that include new search capabilities to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. See below for highlights of some of the new and updated features – we hope you’ll spend some time checking it out!
>> Search by Topic: From the Home page or the Explore By Topic page, you now have the ability to explore projects and products based on six different Science Topics (see list below). Once you land on a topic page, you can break down your search further by Subtopic, CSC, or Product Type (e.g. project, publication, etc.).
>> Science Snapshots: This page is home to a new series of short snapshots highlighting science from across the country. These snapshots provide a good overview of the types of science we do – and why it matters.
>> Search by Region: Like before, you can search our projects by CSC region. However, once you’ve arrived at a CSC page, you can find the information you are interested in more easily by filtering based on a Science Topic of interest. As before, you still have the capability to search projects based on Fiscal Year.
>> Project Pages: Once you click on a project that you’re interested in, you’ll be taken to that project’s own unique webpage. These project pages have a new look – the information is no longer hidden in a series of drop-down tabs, but instead is all laid out up front. You can read the project summary, look at the study area map, and scan the list of products that have resulted from the project.
Published Date: November 18th, 2017
Heading to the 2017 Ecological Society of America (ESA) meeting (August 6-11, 2017) in Portland, OR? Check out these presentations from leadership, staff, and affiliates of the Climate Science Centers! The theme for this year's meeting is: Linking biodiversity, material cycling and ecosystem services in a changing world.
Following an open competition and extensive review by scientific experts, host institutions and consortium partners have been selected for the Alaska, Northwest, and Southeast Climate Science Centers.
The Department of the Interior Climate Science Centers (CSCs) are dedicated to delivering science that helps fish, wildlife, water, land, and people adapt to a changing climate. The CSCs are deeply rooted in federal-university partnerships. Each CSC is hosted by a public university, composed of a multi-institution consortium and managed by the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. These partnerships ensure access to a broad range of scientific expertise, production of high-quality science, and sharing of funds, resources and facilities. University involvement also allows the CSCs to introduce students to the idea of “co-producing” science, in which scientists and decision-makers work closely together to ensure scientific research and products are usable and directly address real-world problems.
Approximately every five years, host universities and consortium partners for the CSCs are selected through a competitive re-compete process. The Alaska, Northwest, and Southeast CSCs were established in 2010 and underwent their first re-competition in 2016. These three CSCs are now structured as follows:
Alaska CSC The University of Alaska Fairbanks will remain the host institution for the Alaska CSC, led by University Director Scott Rupp. The University of Alaska Anchorage remains a partner institution, and is joined by the University of Alaska Southeast, a new consortium partner.
Northwest CSC The University of Washington was selected to be the new host for the Northwest CSC, led by University Director Amy Snover. Consortium institutions include Boise State University, the University of Montana, Washington State University, and Western Washington University.
Southeast CSC North Carolina State University will remain the host institution for the Southeast CSC, and will be led by University Director Harry Daniels. New consortium partners include Auburn University, Duke University, the University of Florida, the University of South Carolina, and the University of Tennessee.
As temperatures rise and rainfall patterns change, many wildlife species are expected to shift their range and move into new habitats in search of more suitable conditions. Yet in the eastern U.S., it’s estimated that less than 2% of natural areas are connected enough to allow for the movement of wildlife from one area to the next. Urban areas, roads, and farms fragment natural areas, creating a patchwork of natural and developed lands – and limiting the ability of species to move.
WHAT: The lack of connected habitats in the face of warming temperatures is one of the biggest threats facing wildlife today. Many species will seek cooler locations that are farther north or at higher elevations, as a means of adapting to changing conditions. Yet barriers on the landscape, such as highly developed areas, could prevent movement and result in local species extinctions.
As a result of this concern, researchers assessed current and future connectivity for three species found in the Southeast’s bottomland hardwood forests, a habitat of high conservation concern: black bear, Rafinesque’s big-eared bat, and the timber rattlesnake. Researchers first mapped landscape connections that would be important for these species, then identified how these connections will hold up in the face of changes in climate and urban growth.
FINDINGS: Under anticipated future climate conditions, the Southeast will have fewer suitable connections that allow species to move to new habitats. This loss of connectivity adds to other threats facing wildlife in the region, such as urbanization and sea-level rise.
Results also reveal that the future suitability of landscape connections will vary depending on the species. For example, a landscape that might be suffiently connected for black bears, which can more easily traverse long distances, might prove to be too disconnected for a rattlesnake. This result demonstrates that managers will need to consider multiple species when making decisions to improve connectivity.
SIGNIFICANCE:Maintaining habitat connectivity is a key strategy for conserving wildlife, but is a challenge in the highly developed southeastern U.S. The results of this study can be used by managers and regional landscape planners to determine where conservation efforts and resources should be focused, in order to maintain connectivity into the future.
Photos: Black bears - Credit: Gary Tucker, FWS (Top); Chattanooga, TN - Credit: Alan Cressler (Right)
Published Date: November 18th, 2017
A new study from North Carolina State University finds that common wild bee species decline as urban temperatures increase.
“We looked at 15 of the most common bee species in southeastern cities and – through fieldwork and labwork – found that increasing temperatures in urban heat islands will have a negative effect on almost all of them,” says Steve Frank, an associate professor of entomology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the work.
“What’s exciting is that we were able to use a relatively easy lab test on individual bees to predict how whole populations will fare at higher temperatures in urban areas,” says Elsa Youngsteadt, a research associate at NC State and co-lead author of the paper. “This is a tool we can use for additional bee species in the future, giving us insights into how urban warming affects ecosystems.”
In the laboratory portion of the study, researchers established the critical thermal maximum (CTmax) for all 15 bee species. This involved placing the bees in tubes and gradually increasing the temperature until each bee became incapacitated. The most heat-tolerant species included the carpenter bees Xylocopa virginica and Ceratina strenua, with CTmax values of 50 to 51°C (122 to 124°F). Some of the least heat-tolerant species included a green sweat bee (Agapostemon virescens) and a bumble bee (Bombus bimaculatus), each with a CTmax below 45°C (113°F). It’s worth noting that the CTmax is the temperature at which an insect is incapacitated, but the insect is adversely affected at lower temperatures and may leave a habitat or reproduce less.
“After measuring the CTmax values, we still didn’t know whether the way individual bees responded to temperature in the lab would correspond to how bee populations respond to higher temperatures in messy, real-world habitats,” Youngsteadt says.
To address this question, the researchers sampled bee populations 11 times over two years at 18 urban sites in Wake County, North Carolina.
The researchers found that the response of the 15 bee species studied in the lab corresponded to each species’ abundance in urban yards. In other words, the lower a species’ CTmax, the more its numbers declined with urban warming.
“This is certainly relevant for urban heat islands, but it may also help us understand potential effects of global climate change on bee species,” Youngsteadt says. “If species that have a lower CTmax are most sensitive to urban warming, they may also be most sensitive to warming in other environments.”
The paper, “Physiological thermal limits predict differential responses of bees to urban heat-island effects,” is published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters. April Hamblin, a former graduate student at NC State, is co-lead author. Margarita López-Uribe, a postdoctoral researcher at NC State, is a co-author. The work was done with support from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, under grant number 2013-02476; and from the U.S. Geological Survey under cooperative agreements G11AC20471 and G13AC00405.
This study was supported by the Department of Interior Southeast Climate Science Center, which is managed by the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. The center is one of eight that provides scientific information to help natural resource managers and communities respond effectively to climate change.
The original press release from North Carolina State University can be found here. The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the USGS.
Photo: Close-up image of a type of bumble bee, Bombus bimaculatus, one of the species most adversely affected by warmer urban temperatures. Credit: USGS
Published Date: November 18th, 2017
2016 was an exciting year for the Department of the Interior (DOI) Climate Science Centers (CSCs) and the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC). In recognition of our ongoing efforts to raise awareness and provide the scientific data and tools needed to address the impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife, ecosystems, and people, NCCWSC and the CSCs received an honorable mention in the first ever Climate Adaptation Leadership Award for Natural Resources sponsored by the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plant Climate Adaptation Strategy’s Joint Implementation Working Group. The recognition is a reflection of our contribution to numerous scientific workshops and publications, provision of training for students and early career professionals, and work with Tribes and indigenous communities to improve climate change resilience across the Nation.
In our 2016 Annual Report, we highlight some of the activities that took place throughout the NCCWSC and CSC network last year.
Read the report to learn more about how we:
Provided a better understanding of climate change impacts on Southeast ecosystems to aid in conservation planning
Improved the downscaling of regional climate models for the Hawaiian Islands
Identified the role of warmer spring temperatures in reducing Colorado River flow
Assessed Alaska's potential to store greenhouse gases
Collaborated with Tribes to identify vulnerabilities to climate change and assess management strategies
Supported students and early career researchers in the development of skills and networking
Developed tools that inform decision-making and resource management
Published Date: November 18th, 2017
In the past 15 years, the southeastern U.S. has experienced three record-breaking droughts. The most recent drought drew national attention as it fueled rare fall wildfires in the Great Smoky Mountains and elsewhere in the region.
Stretching from the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, the Southeast supports diverse ecological communities and large human populations, both of which place an enormous demand on the water supply. Though generally considered a water-rich area, periodic drought is part of the region’s historical climate patterns. Yet as climate change influences temperature, precipitation, and circulation patterns, drought conditions may become more prevalent, placing further stress on the region’s water resources.
In light of these concerns, the Department of the Interior Southeast Climate Science Center (CSC) is working to identify how drought will manifest itself throughout the region and what these changing conditions could mean for ecosystems and wildlife. In November 2016, a group of climate and ecological experts met to discuss ecological drought and identified several core issues:
1. Balancing the needs of human and natural systems As the population and economy of the Southeast continue to grow, it is imperative to understand how climate change and drought will further influence water resources that currently support the competing demands of urban areas, agriculture, industry, and ecosystems.
2. Precipitation patterns are changing Precipitation in the Southeast is becoming more variable, with summer months becoming drier and fall months becoming wetter. Although average rainfall amounts have not decreased, in many parts of the region dry years are becoming drier and droughts have become more frequent. The soils in this region don’t hold much water, so even a few weeks without rainfall can cause drought.
3. Distinct Southeastern landscapes and biodiversity are at risk Due to the region’s warm climate and typically ample rainfall, remarkably diverse plant and animal communities are found in the Southeast – including species found nowhere else in the world. However, this high diversity also creates a high ecological water demand. Rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns are expected to lengthen and intensify periods of reduced water availability, placing novel stresses on both human and ecological communities.
This workshop was hosted in partnership by the Southeast CSC, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Integration & Application Network, and the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. This was the fifth in a series of eight workshops being held across the United States, each in a different region. Each workshop results in a four-page informational document that synthesizes the current understanding of ecological drought in the region. Click the graphic on the rightto view the informational document from the Southeast workshop.
Learn more about Ecological Drought in other regions of the U.S. here
Published Date: November 18th, 2017
Maintaining connectivity between habitats is a key strategy for conserving wildlife populations into the future. Yet here in the contiguous U.S., habitat fragmentation and loss threaten the well-being and even the survival of many wildlife communities. While habitat loss refers to the simple elimination of habitat, fragmentation occurs when habitat is divided into smaller, more isolated patches. Both are the result of land-use changes and human development, and both reduce the amount of suitable area available to wildlife species, separating wildlife populations in ways that may affect the population’s health and even its genetic viability, and interrupting migration routes.
Climate change is projected to exacerbate fragmentation by further disrupting landscapes. To make matters worse, it is also expected to shift the range of many species, forcing animal species capable of adapting by moving to expand into new areas to find more suitable temperatures and adequate food supplies – a challenge made difficult, if not impossible, by disconnected landscapes. A 2016 study shows that only 41% of current natural areas in the United States are connected enough to allow wildlife to move to more preferable temperatures.
To help maintain, strengthen, and increase connectivity between landscapes, scientists across the country are actively working to ensure that managers and planners have sound scientific research upon which to base their decisions.
Serious Changes in the Southeast
Perhaps nowhere in the United States is habitat fragmentation more visible than in the Southeast, where rapid human development increasingly divides the remaining natural areas. In 2014, a Southeast Climate Science Center (SE CSC) study projected that urbanization in the region could increase by 101-192 percent over the next 50 years, creating a connected “megalopolis” from Raleigh to Atlanta.
Scientists with the SE CSC, in partnership with the South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative, also recently assessed current and projected connectivity for three species that inhabit bottomland hardwood forests, a habitat of high conservation concern: American black bear, Rafinesque’s big-eared bat, and timber rattlesnake. Not surprisingly, the study results suggest that under anticipated climate conditions, there will be fewer connections for species to move between suitable habitats. This loss of connectivity adds to other threats facing this southeastern landscape, including sea level rise, urbanization, and land clearing and conversion.
Moreover, the findings also reveal that the connectedness of a future landscape will be species specific. For example, what may be sufficiently connected for a black bear to easily traverse long distances might well prove to be disconnected for a rattlesnake. This suggests a limited ability for managers to use the “umbrella species” concept to make generalized management decisions. The team additionally found that connectivity projections differ based on the model and method being used. Researchers suggest that managers and others use multiple techniques and focus on multiple species to get a more holistic, accurate representation of how species will use a particular landscape in the future and how connections between and among habitats can be strengthened most effectively.
Management Needs in the Northwest
Even in the more wide-open northwestern U.S., habitat fragmentation is a serious challenge to healthy and functioning ecosystems. Such is the case around the border of Washington and British Columbia, where research shows that increasing development and limited coordination of land and wildlife management threaten the movement of wildlife.
To support conservation decision-making in the region, Northwest Climate Science Center-funded researchers partnered with land and wildlife managers from both sides of the border, including Northwest tribes, U.S. state and federal agencies, and Canadian management agencies. Through a series of workshops, they assessed connectivity challenges for 13 priority species and ecosystems: American marten, black bear, Canada lynx, Lewis’s woodpecker, mountain goats, mule deer, tiger salamander, whitebark pine, white-tailed ptarmigan, wolverine, shrub-steppe habitats, and the Okanagan-Kettle region.
Scientists and managers used conceptual models to understand and project a wide range of future impacts to connectivity for the 13 case studies. Project participants also identified a diverse set of adaptation responses. For example, managers might implement prescribed burns, control invasive species, or restore riparian areas to maintain existing core habitat areas and their connections. Results from this project are available online and include key findings, data, and maps for each case study.
These projects are enhancing the ability of land and wildlife managers to collaboratively respond now to future threats to regional wildlife movement. The examples are only two of many projects supported by the Department of the Interior Climate Science Centers (CSCs) to provide natural and cultural resource managers with science and tools related to the impacts of climate change on fish and wildlife.