Southeast CSC

A new study from North Carolina State University finds that common wild bee species decline as urban temperatures increase.

Close-up of a bumble bee (Bombus bimaculatus)“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: July 22nd, 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

And more!

Published Date: July 22nd, 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.

This story was originally written for The Wildlife Society.

Photo on page: A black bear leads her cubs across the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, NC. Photo by Garry Tucker, USFWS


Published Date: July 22nd, 2017

National Adaptation Forum logoHeading to the National Adaptation Forum this year? We hope you'll check out some of the presentations and trainings organized by the Climate Science Centers (CSCs) and the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC)! 

Be sure to also stop by Booth 20 to learn more about the national Climate Science Center network and Booth 20A to learn more about the North Central CSC (booth map). Three new Tribal Climate Liaisons for the CSCs will also be at the BIA Booth 42!

A special congratulations to Olivia LeDee, Northeast CSC Deputy Director, who will be receiving a Minnesota Climate Adaptation Award for her work in integrating and advancing climate adaptation in natural resource management in Minnesota! The award ceremony will be held at NAF on the evening of Monday, May 8, 2017. 

NAF is being held in Saint Paul, Minnesota from May 9 to May 11, 2017. We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Presentation: The SNAPP ecological drought framework: Conceptualizing drought risks to nature and people
Aaron Ramirez, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, NCCWSC & CSC Ecodrought Postdoc
Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 11:10am - 12:40pm
Meeting Room 11

Presentation: Completing the cycle: Stakeholder-informed assessments of drought vulnerability
Shelley Crausbay, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, NCCWSC & CSC Ecodrought Postdoc
Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 11:10am - 12:40pm
Meeting Room 11

Symposium: Adaptation Strategies to Address Climate Impacts to Natural Systems
Co-organizer: Olivia LeDee, USGS, Northeast CSC
Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 11:10am - 12:40pm
Grand Ball Room - Section D

Symposium: How to Start and Conduct a Tribal/Indigenous Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment
Shannon McNeeley, Colorado State University, North Central CSC
Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 2:50pm - 4:20pm
Meeting Room 5

  • Presentation: Introduction on Climate Vulnerability Assessment Approaches
    Shannon McNeeley
    , Colorado State University, North Central CSC

Presentation: And then what? Anticipating climate-driven ecosystem transformations
Stephen Jackson
, USGS, Southwest CSC
Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 4:30pm - 5:30pm
Meeting Room 5

Poster #44: Incorporating Evolutionary Considerations into Climate Adaptation Plans: A Decision Framework
Andrew Battles, NSF Fellow, National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center
Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 5:30pm - 8:00pm
Grand Ball Room - Section A/E

Poster #32: Tribal Climate Science Liaisons- and Introduction to the New Initiative
Rachael Novak, Bureau of Indian Affairs
This poster will present information about the new tribal climate science liaisons placed in the Climate Science Centers.
Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 5:30pm - 8:00pm
Grand Ball Room - Section A/E

Poster #99: Hazards in Oregon: Insights from Providing Local Climate Services in Practice
Josh Foster, Oregon State University, Northwest CSC
Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 5:30pm - 8:00pm
Great Ball Room - Section A/E

Poster #107: The Available Science Assessment Project (ASAP): Evaluating the Supporting Science Behind Climate Adaptation Actions
Whitney Reynier, EcoAdapt
Co-authors: Nicole Decrappeo, USGS, Deputy Director, and Gustavo Bisbal, USGS, Director, Northwest CSC
Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 5:30pm - 8:00pm
Great Ball Room - Section A/E

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Presentation: Integrating and implementing climate change into State Wildlife Action Plans
Toni Lyn Morelli, USGS, Northeast CSC
Michelle Staudinger, USGS, Northeast CSC
Wednesday, May 10, 2017, 4:30pm - 5:30pm
Meeting Room 11

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Symposium: Teaching Climate Adaptation: Regional Climate Science Center Network Activities on Education and Training
Organizer: Josh Foster, Oregon State University, Northwest CSC
Thursday, May 11, 2017, 8:00am - 9:30am
Meeting Room 8/9

  • Presentations:
  • Developing a Translational Science Workforce
  • Toni Lyn Morelli, USGS, Northeast CSC
  • Northwest Ways of Knowing: Teaching Climate Adaptation Skills and Practices
    Steve Daley-Laursen, University of Idaho, Northwest CSC

    Facilitating knowledge coproduction on Hawaiʻi Island: managers and scientists in the context of climate change
    Scott Laursen, University of Hawai`i at Hilo, Pacific Islands CSC

    Managing for a Changing Climate: Educating Stakeholders Using a Massive Open Online Course
    Aparna Bamzai, USGS, North Central CSC

    Promoting Research and Learning through Video: Graduate Training in Science Communication and Videomaking
    Cari S Furiness, North Carolina State University, Southeast CSC

    One size does not fit all: The need for multidisciplinary, cross-sectoral climate adaptation training for diverse audiences
    Jill Lackett, Colorado State University, North Central CSC

Symposium: Translational Climate Science: Resource managers and scientists partnering in the face of climate change
Organizer: Toni Lyn Morelli, USGS, Northeast CSC
Thursday, May 11, 2017, 1:20pm - 2:50pm
Grand Ball Room - Section D

  • Presentations:
  • Translational ecology for climate adaptation: Old wine in new bottles? A fresh vintage? Does it matter?
  • Steve Jackson, USGS, Southwest CSC

    Managing Climate Change Refugia for Biodiversity Conservation
    Toni Lyn Morelli, USGS, Northeast CSC
  • A co-production approach for implementing refugia science into adaptive management in the Northwestern U.S.
    Aaron Ramirez, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, NCCWSC & CSC Ecodrought Postdoc

Training: Incorporating Future Climate Projections in Adaptation Planning: A Layman's Guide
Organizer: Derek Rosendahl, University of Oklahoma, South Central CSC 
Thursday, May 11, 2017, 3:00pm - 5:00pm
Meeting Room 4

  • Co-organizers:
  • Jessica Blackband, University of Oklahoma, South Central CSC
    Alex Bryan, USGS, Northeast CSC
    Jeremy Littell, USGS, Alaska CSC
    Renee McPherson, University of Oklahoma, South Central CSC
    Esther Mullens, University of Oklahoma, South Central CSC
    Adrienne Wootten, University of Oklahoma, South Central CSC

Other attendees at NAF include Mary Ratnaswamy, USGS, Director of the Northeast CSC, Ryan Boyles, USGS, Deputy Director of the Southeast CSC, and Holly Barton, Tribal Climate Science Liaison, Southwest CSC.

Other NAF presentations and sessions of interest:

NAF Tribal Climate Change Track: a list of forum opportunities to attend related to Tribes and climate change 



Published Date: July 22nd, 2017

Fog after a storm on the Sante Fe River in FloridaWe routinely encounter uncertainty when we make decisions – from picking a new morning coffee to choosing where to live. Even decisions that are supported by science contain some level of remaining uncertainty, such that making choices may remain uncomfortable and challenging. Scientists from the USGS Georgia Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit (Georgia Unit), together with the Department of the Interior Southeast Climate Science Center (SE CSC) and other partners are developing tools that decision makers can use to more formally account for uncertainties when moving forward with conservation and resource management.

Uncertainty inherently arises from incomplete or imperfect information. Our own societal uncertainties can result from people having differing values, world views, attitudes or emotions, which may then influence individuals’ choices or support for policies. For example, people who share a common goal and are presented with identical information may still make different choices. Ecological uncertainties also may remain due to unexplained variation in the natural world, which we’re not yet able to perfectly understand with available technologies and resources.

In the context of conservation and wildlife management, the potential for uncertainty to influence decisions is perhaps most obvious when we think about predicting how actions (or non-actions) will have lasting impacts into the future. Our abilities to precisely predict future conditions and determine the exact consequences of our actions are, and will remain, limited. Numerous climatic and ecological changes persist on the horizon, and their eventual consequences are not completely understood. Even so, these changes are expected to impact important natural resources and the people that depend on them. In turn, planners and resource managers are expected to incorporate expected changes into their forecasts. Although uncertainty about the future can make hard choices even more challenging, it does not necessarily need to be a roadblock for the advancement of science and policy.

In a fact sheet developed last year, USGS Georgia Unit scientist Dr. Brian Irwin and his collaborators laid out four principles for helping support conservation decision making in the face of uncertainty:

  1. Structure the decision. Formalizing the decision-making process can help navigate the challenges posed by socio-ecological uncertainties. Several key steps are suggested that include: specifying objectives, identifying options, making predictions about likely consequences, assessing trade-offs, and evaluating uncertainties.
  2. Recognize how values motivate. Even if perfect knowledge were obtainable, decision making would still be driven by value-based objectives. Reconciliation of values and knowledge is required to solve decision problems.
  3. Heed evidence. Once a relevant uncertainty is identified for a needed decision, alternative plausible hypotheses should be defined and tested so that the empirical support for competing hypotheses can be established. As new evidence is acquired, incorporating what has been learned should lead to more informed and more justifiable future decisions.
  4. Recognize how risk tolerances may vary. Even when objectives are shared, individuals can still react differently to uncertainty. Accounting for uncertainty within a decision making framework helps make possible risks more transparent and helps define paths towards progressively well-informed future choices.

This project brought together scientists, decision makers, planners, and resource managers across universities and federal and state agencies for a workshop on the topic of “Communicating and Using Uncertain Information in Conservation Decision Making.” This workshop, along with the products developed for the project, advance a decision-analytic perspective within the conservation community to support effective conservation in the face of uncertainty.

The Georgia Unit and Southeast CSC are also collaborating on two other projects led by Dr. Clint Moore to provide science that will inform conservation planning for several species native to the Southeast. One project aims to develop a decision support system for the selection of conservation actions that will lead to a viable landscape supporting the gopher tortoise population. Gopher tortoises are a keystone species with declining populations throughout their southeastern U.S. range. This work will incorporate elements of the structured decision making process around predictive models of habitat suitability and population connectivity to guide the assembly of conservation reserves that promote persistence of the tortoise within Georgia. Another recently initiated project will build on the gopher tortoise research as well as species data contributed by other partners to identify habitat requirements for the gopher tortoise and four other priority at-risk species – Florida pine snake, gopher frog, southern hognose snake, and striped newt – for the ultimate aim of identifying conservation actions expected to improve the status of these species.

This story was originally written for the Wildlife Management Institute's Outdoor News Bulletin. This article was prepared by the USGS Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and the Southeast Climate Science Center. This project was funded by the Southeast Climate Science Center, one of eight regional centers that aim to provide natural and cultural resource managers with science and tools related to the impacts of climate change on fish and wildlife.

Picture on Page: Fog after a storm on the Sante Fe River, Florida. Credit - Alan Cressler

Published Date: July 22nd, 2017

USET logoThe United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) is hiring for a position as the Northeast and Southeast Climate Science Centers' Tribal Liaison.

Brief Description of Duties to Be Performed: The Office of Environmental Resource Management (OERM) Tribal Climate Science Liaison will serve as a technical expert on climate change issues, resource vulnerability, and climate adaptation actions to Tribal nations in the USET region, and more broadly in the combined region comprising the Department of Interior’s Northeast Climate Science Center and Southeast Climate Science Center (NE CSC and SE CSC). The Tribal Climate Science Liaison will be responsible for developing and implementing a communication, education and outreach program; identifing climate research needs and priorities; and providing climate adaptation planning support to Tribal nations. He/she will also integrate program and research results into budget documents, annual reports, or other documents. The Tribal Climate Science Liaison will participate in a network of Tribal climate science liaisons within the Climate Science Center system; and a national workgroup of Tribal organizations, Tribal colleges, and other partners to address policy and resource issues associated with Tribal climate resilience. This position will be based at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. 

Minimum Requirements: Ph.D. degree preferred, or Master’s degree with at least three years of experience, in an area of science relevant to climate change and Tribal issues, including the social sciences and public health;

  • Familiarity with recent climate change research and resources within applicant’s area of expertise; with the ability to assist in development and evaluation of research proposals, methods and outcomes;
  • Experience applying comprehensive knowledge of principles of climate science, biology, ecology, and related sciences to strategic planning with the goal of maintaining science relevance and linkage to societal needs;
  • Knowledge of consensus building and group facilitation processes as illustrated through previous collaborations with federal, Tribal and state agencies, academic institutions, and other organizations;
  • Demonstrated knowledge of, and previous involvement in, issues that Tribal communities in the USET region are facing that could be addressed through research in climate change impacts;
  • Understanding of Tribal nations, values, needs, and traditional ecological knowledge; with the ability to work within the customs and traditions of diverse Tribal nations, such as reflected among USET member Tribal nations.
  • Strong oral and written communication skills, especially the ability to articulate relevant climate change-related issues and program products and concepts to Tribal nations and non-scientists generally;
  • Demonstrated ability to work both independently and as a collaborative team member along with the ability to organize, prioritize, document and manage multiple projects.
  • Ability to travel and work irregular hours as necessary. 

This position is funded for one year by the Department of Interior. While NE CSC and SE CSC are working on making this a long-term position, that is contingent upon availability of funds.

Position posted: April 5, 2017
Closing Date: Open until filled

Please email cover letter and résumé to:
Tammy Neptune, Human Resources Dept.
United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc.
Subject line: Tribal Climate Science Liaison

Published Date: July 22nd, 2017

Red Maple Tree with red leavesWould you give a few minutes a year to reveal the future of forests?

What would be the easiest citizen science project ever? Watching paint dry? Falling off a log? Maybe. But what would you, or anyone else, learn from that?

Researchers in the Southeast are starting a citizen science project almost as easy but much more important. Its called A Tree’s Life and all you need to do is monitor red maple growth in your yard. They even give you the supplies. It’s really just one supply called a dendrometer, and it does most of the work.

The team wants to measure trees because they have a very important job to do. Trees take carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) from the air and release oxygen. Even more important, though, is that they use the carbon to build more tree tissue. That’s how they grow, and as they grow, they store carbon that would otherwise remain in the atmosphere.

Trees provide many other services like filtering air and water, providing shade to reduce energy costs, and generally make life better. Unfortunately, warming from urbanization and from climate change can reduce tree growth due to water stress, pests, and other factors. In other cases warming might make trees grow more and become healthier due to a longer growing season.

The problem the researchers want to address is that no one knows how trees in different habitats (urban, suburban, rural) and different latitudes will respond. So how can one predict the rate of carbon accumulation in the atmosphere, and thus climate change, if we don’t know how the primary terrestrial carbon sinks – trees – will respond? We can’t. Can we predict where urban trees and forests will thrive or decline? Not very well.

The project goal is to monitor the growth, and thus carbon sequestration, of hundreds or thousands of trees to help figure this out. If you have a red maple and a few minutes each year, please help. You will contribute to an understanding of how climate change and urbanization will affect forest health and carbon sequestration by trees.

Learn more about the study and find out how you can participate >>

This citizen science opportunity is a part of a Southeast Climate Science Center project: Consequences of Urbanization and Climate on Human and Ecosystem Health

Image: Public Domain Photo

Published Date: July 22nd, 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
Image of the cover of the Southeast CSC ecodrought newsletterPrecipitation 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 right to view the informational document from the Southeast workshop.

Learn more about Ecological Drought in other regions of the U.S. here

Published Date: July 22nd, 2017

Study Finds Knowledge Gaps on Protecting Cultural Sites from Climate Change, NCSU Press Release March 7, 2017

Cape Lookout Lighthouse against a blue sky; By Erin SeekampNorth Carolina’s Cape Lookout lighthouse has survived threats ranging from Civil War raids to multiple hurricanes, but the Outer Banks site can’t escape climate-related changes such as rising sea levels, coastal erosion and flooding from stronger storms.

A North Carolina State University study in Climatic Change found little research exists on how to protect cultural resources like those at Cape Lookout National Seashore, a 56-acre site that includes historic buildings in addition to the iconic lighthouse and scenic beaches.

“Cultural heritage sites provide a lot of benefits, from sociocultural value in giving a community its unique identity to economic benefits from recreation and tourism,” says lead author Sandra Fatorić, a postdoctoral researcher with NC State’s College of Natural Resources. “We see a significant gap in knowledge of how to adapt to climate change and preserve cultural resources for future generations.”

Researchers searched worldwide for peer-reviewed studies of cultural resources – archaeological sites, natural landscapes and historic buildings – at risk due to climate change. About 60 percent of the studies referenced sites in Europe, most commonly in the United Kingdom. Another 17 percent of the research covered sites in North America, a majority of them in the United States. About 11 percent dealt with resources in Australia and the Pacific Islands and 10 percent mentioned Asia, mostly China. All but six of the 124 studies were published in English-language journals, with South America and Africa rarely represented in the research.

“We were struck by how recent much of the research was, with the first article appearing in 2003,” Fatorić says, adding there’s a need for more multidisciplinary work and research that involves local residents and stakeholders. “That process reveals what a community most values about a site.”

Co-author Erin Seekamp, an associate professor and tourism extension specialist in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at NC State, is working with stakeholders to set priorities for protecting cultural resources at Cape Lookout as part of a project with the Department of Interior’s Southeast Climate Science Center. Seekamp and Fatorić are evaluating 17 buildings in terms of their significance and their value to the site’s operations, working with managers from the National Park Service and North Carolina State Preservation Office. The research team, which includes U.S. Geological Survey analysts Mitch Eaton and Max Post van der Burg, is combining this information with earlier research by Western Carolina University’s Rob Young which found that most of the buildings at Cape Lookout are at high risk from flooding, erosion and rising sea levels.

“We’re looking at all of the options for each structure,” Seekamp says. “Which buildings should be maintained? Which could be moved to higher ground? Does that change the character of the site? Does changing a building’s use – from storage to visitor programs, for example – affect its relative value?”

An overview of Seekamp’s research is part of a National Park Service report titled “Cultural Resources Climate Change Strategy,” which ranked as the most downloaded government website document in the week following the 2017 presidential inauguration, according to the Washington Post.

“Park managers face difficult decisions in prioritizing which resources to protect,” Seekamp says. “We hope to develop a method that will help with decisions on protecting Cape Lookout’s historic buildings as well as informing policy for protecting cultural resources at other national parks facing climate adaptation.”

The U.S. Geological Survey (U.S. Department of the Interior) and Southeast Climate Science Center funded this study.


Image on Page: Cape Lookout Lighthouse; By Erin Seekamp

Published Date: July 22nd, 2017

With 2016 drawn to a close, we're looking back at the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts highlighting research from the USGS National Climate Change & Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) and the DOI Climate Science Centers (CSCs). In Part 1 of our review, we re-visited 5 of our most popular posts of 2016. Check out 4 more posts below!

Forecasting the Future of Whitebark Pine

Photo: Whitebark pine in Yellowstone National Park (R.G. Johnsson, NPS)

Shout out to Yellowstone National Park, celebrating its 144th birthday this week! If you’ve visited Yellowstone, chances are you’ve hiked through one of its iconic stands of whitebark pine. The whitebark pine is a keystone species in high-elevation forests, providing food for a variety of birds and animals, including the grizzly bear.

While whitebark pine once covered vast swaths of Yellowstone, its populations have been decimated over the last 30 years by invasive pests like mountain pine beetles and white pine blister rust (a fungus). Climate change may be the root cause: warmer, drier weather is stressing whitebark pines while simultaneously allowing invasive populations to soar – until the late 1990s, winter temperatures were generally too cold for these critters to survive. Scientists at the North Central Climate Science Center are using models to forecast how Yellowstone's whitebark pine populations will fare as the climate continues to change. Research findings will benefit park managers as they evaluate management alternatives for the whitebark pine and the species it supports. Learn more: 

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The Importance of Urban Flowers for Honey Bees

Photo: Honey bee extracts nectar (John Severns, public domain)

Honey bees may be the ultimate diet masters! Although “junk foods” (like spilled soda and other leftover treats that will be so abundant this Memorial Day Weekend) abound in city environments, bees opt for flower nectar over processed sugars. That’s what researchers supported by the Southeast Climate Science Center discovered in a recent study. This finding is surprising, given that many other urban animals feed on human foods. It suggests that urban flowers and green spaces may be especially important for sustaining healthy pollinator populations. Learn more: 

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Understanding Drought in the Northeast & Midwest

Graphic: Projected seasonal changes from increasing temperatures and precipitation changes (UMCES-IAN)

Climate change is projected to cause increased temperatures and more rainfall in the northeastern and midwestern U.S., which actually could mean more drought. Why? Precipitation patterns will become more variable, with more rain falling during extreme precipitation events, and longer gaps separating rainfall events. Combined with warming temperatures, this equates to more frequent, short-term droughts. Researchers with the Northeast Climate Science Center are working to understand what this will mean for people and ecosystems. Learn more:

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The Impacts of Alaska's Retreating Glaciers on Coastal Ecosystems

Photo: Chenega Glacier in Prince William Sound, Gulf of Alaska (Julie St. Louis, USFWS)

Many Alaskan glaciers are retreating (melting) as average temperatures warm. What happens to all that ice? As glaciers melt, their contents are released into streams and rivers and swept away to the ocean. Although melting occurs relatively slowly, the sheer size of glaciers means that massive quantities of freshwater and nutrients, such as iron and nitrate, are being added to coastal ecosystems each year. Researchers supported by USGS’s National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center studied the impacts from melting glaciers in the Copper River region of the Gulf of Alaska and what they might mean for plants, plankton, and fish. Big changes may be on the horizon for these ecosystems - as more melting means more nutrients to support vegetation growth - but it’s tough to predict specifics at this point. Learn more: 

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Published Date: July 22nd, 2017