The Central Asia Salt Basin of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan has the potential to contain between 39 and 54 billion metric tons of undiscovered potash resources, according to a global mineral resource assessment led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Known potash resources in the Central Asia Salt Basin consist of 1.63 billion metric tons.
Potash is produced worldwide at amounts exceeding 30 million metric tons per year, mostly for use in fertilizers. The term “potash” refers to potassium-bearing, water-soluble salts derived from evaporite basins, where seawater dried up and precipitated various salt compounds; the word for the element “potassium” is derived from potash. In fact, industry uses potash to refer to potassium chloride, as well as potassium sulfate, nitrate, and oxide forms.
The Central Asia Salt Basin hosts significant discovered potash resources and originated in an inland sea during Late Jurassic time. Seawater flowed into the Basin, mostly from its extreme northwestern margin near the modern Caspian Sea, during several evaporation episodes that deposited at least five different packages of evaporites, with virtually all potash in the second and fourth packages.
In this study, the Central Asia Salt Basin was subdivided into three tracts, also known as permissive areas, for evaluation: the Amu Darya tract in the west, the Gissar tract in the center, and the Afghan-Tajik tract in the east. The Gissar and Amu Darya tracts were each quantitatively assessed. The Afghan‑Tajik tract was only qualitatively assessed because of the extreme depth (as deep as 7 km) of the Jurassic salt, extensive deformation and a lack of known potash deposits.
In 2013 (the most recent year for which complete information is available), world potash production was 34.5 million metric tons of K2O-equivalent. Canada was the leading producer of potash (10.1 million metric tons K2O-equivalent), followed by Russia, China, Belarus, Germany, Israel, Jordan, and Chile. Of the 12 known potash-producing countries in 2013, 8 produced 1 million metric tons or more; production in the United States was slightly less than 1 million metric tons, and production in Brazil, Spain, and the United Kingdom was less than 500,000 metric tons each.
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New research can help water managers along the Rio Grande make wise decisions about how to best use the flow of a river vital for drinking water, agriculture and aquatic habitat. These studies also show how conditions from the prolonged drought in the West have affected the Rio Grande watershed.
The Rio Grande forms the world’s longest river border between two countries as it flows between Texas and Mexico, where it is known as the Rio Bravo. The river runs through three states in the U.S., beginning in southern Colorado and flowing through New Mexico and Texas before it forms the border with Mexico.
Parts of the Rio Grande are designated as wild and scenic, but most of the river is controlled and passes through several dam and reservoir systems during its 1,896 mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico. The river is managed through a complex system of compacts, treaties, and agreements that determine when and how much water is released along the river’s length.
The amount and timing of water releases have varied in recent years due to drought. Recent USGS research on the middle Rio Grande looked at the effects of those changes on the amount of salts that build up in the Rincon and Mesilla Valleys in Texas and New Mexico. Results showed a decline in the amount of salt carried by the river due to a decrease of releases during the drought. The two valleys responded differently to the decreased releases. Salt levels in the Rincon Valley declined, whereas salt levels in the Mesilla Valley increased. Salt buildup in the soil and water can affect agriculture, which is an important industry in those valleys.
Successfully managing water use along the river is important to the sustainability of agricultural and communities along the river. To help with that goal, USGS has measured water gains and losses to the Rio Grande from between the Leasburg Dam near Leasburg, New Mexico, and the American Dam near El Paso, Texas. American Dam is near where the Rio Grande becomes the border with Mexico. For the past several years, drought conditions contributed to decreasing flows along this 64-mile stretch, and sections of the river were dry during parts of the year.
Flow in the Rio Grande is affected by how water is used throughout the basin. For instance, the Albuquerque area of New Mexico has two principal sources of water: groundwater from the underlying aquifer system and withdrawals and diversions from the Rio Grande. From 1960 to 2002, pumping from the aquifer system caused groundwater levels to decline from about 40 feet along the Rio Grande in Albuquerque to more than 120 feet in the valley away from the river. As a result, the USGS, in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation, conducted a study to understand the exchange of water between the Rio Grande and the aquifer system.
By characterizing the interaction between surface water from the Rio Grande and groundwater from the aquifer system, scientists provide valuable information to help managers make informed decisions about water use.
In addition to helping decision makers determine how to best manage the river for human use, USGS scientists are studying how native fish and their aquatic habitats are affected by different streamflow conditions along the river. For example, previous investigations have shown that the decline in Rio Grande silvery minnow may be attributed to modifications of the natural streamflow regime, channel drying, construction of reservoirs and dams, stream channelization, declining water quality, and interactions with nonnative fish. Understanding native species habitat limitations is important for decision makers to better plan future flow operations to meet desired resource goals.
More information on the research and results discussed in this release can be found in the following studies:
- Variability of surface-water quantity and quality and shallow groundwater levels and quality within the Rio Grande Project area, New Mexico and Texas, 2009–13
- Seepage investigation of the Rio Grande from below Leasburg Dam, Leasburg, New Mexico, to above American Dam, El Paso, Texas, 2014
- Seepage investigation of the Rio Grande from below Leasburg Dam, Leasburg, New Mexico, to above American Dam, El Paso, Texas, 2015
- Groundwater hydrology and estimation of horizontal groundwater flux from the Rio Grande at selected locations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2009–10
- Fish assemblage composition and mapped mesohabitat features over a range of streamflows in the Middle Rio Grande, New Mexico, winter 2011-12, summer 2012
- Physical characteristics and fish assemblage composition at site and mesohabitat scales over a range of streamflows in the Middle Rio Grande, New Mexico, winter 2011-12, summer 2012
The Federal Geographic Data Committee is now accepting nominations for the Doug D. Nebert National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) Champion of the Year Award. Doug was a recognized national and international leader in the establishment of spatial data infrastructures and technical visionary as well as respected colleague.Doug Nebert presenting at a conference, expanding on his vision of National Spatial Dataset Infrastructure issues (undated photo). Doug Nebert getting ready to lift off in a private plane, his other lifelong passion (undated photo).
To commemorate Nebert’s varied contributions to and passions for our nation’s geography and cartography, the FGDC is accepting nominations for the newly established award.
“This award commemorates Doug’s influence in promoting the vision of the NSDI,” said Ivan DeLoatch, Executive Director of the FGDC. “This is a unique opportunity to honor significant contributions to an individual or group of individuals that have furthered the goal of available and easily integrated data to enhance the understanding of our physical and cultural world.”
Eligibility: The nominations are available to an individual or a team representing federal, state, tribal, regional, and/or local government, academia, or nonprofit and professional organization that has developed an outstanding, innovative, and operational tool, application, or service capability used by multiple organizations that furthers the vision of the NSDI. The nominee must be a US citizen.
Nomination Process: Each nomination package will be submitted in electronic form through the award website and include justification and related nomination information. Nominations are due by May 6, 2016.
Award Selection: An interagency team of SDI experts from the FGDC will review all nominations and make a recommendation for the award to the FGDC Chair who will make the final decision on the award. The award information will be posted on the FGDC website.
The award is based on the following foundational precepts:
- Innovation and vision
- Use of standards
- Advancement of NSDI principles
- Service to communities of users
- Developed once, used by many
- Improved performance and service
- Real-world application
RESTON, Va. — A new public-private research collaboration supported by the U.S. Geological Survey will tackle how to best cope with the increasing droughts of the future.
The USGS, The Nature Conservancy, and The Wildlife Conservation Society are launching the Ecological Drought Working Group as part of the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP). This research group is composed of drought, climate change, economic and conservation experts from these and other institutions. The scientists will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the ecological impacts of drought on ecosystems and wildlife and people and their livelihoods, as well as propose methods to lessen such impacts, both ecologically and economically.
“The group’s findings will inform local communities, businesses and conservation practitioners about the most effective ways to prepare for and respond to drought impacts,” said Shawn Carter, senior scientist at the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and a co-lead of the working group.
Carter noted that both historical and recent droughts not only cause great economic hardships, but they also are often ecologically devastating. Droughts, which have ravaged much of the United States in recent years, are estimated to have resulted in more than $100 billion in damages between 1980 and 2000.
“Our work can help communities adapt to the long-term effects of drought by supporting healthy ecosystems,” said Carter. “For example, even a relatively simple action, such as reintroducing beavers into ecosystems where they used to live, can boost the natural storage capacity of watersheds.”
Working group co-lead Molly Cross, North America WCS climate change adaptation coordinator, emphasized that for people to be adequately prepared for drought they need to understand how drought-impacted ecosystems can harm human communities, such as through increased wildfire hazards or through adverse effects on fish and wildlife valued for hunting- and angling-based economies. “By raising awareness and understanding about these ecological impacts of drought, we’ll be able to help people all over the country make informed decisions to prepare for and respond to long-term drought,” Cross added.
Products from the SNAPP Ecological Drought Working Group will be tailored to add value to state and local drought planning, including in the Upper Missouri headwaters of Montana. In 2015, five counties in this region were declared disaster areas due to their extreme drought conditions. The Obama Administration’s National Drought Resilience Partnership selected this region as a place to demonstrate how federal and state agencies can leverage knowledge, capacity and resources to better prepare Montana communities for future drought impacts. Additional case studies will be examined by the SNAPP Ecological Drought working group to encompass a range of drought impacts across the United States.
“Drought has been plaguing our country for decades, but people tend to focus on immediate challenges such as the impacts on agriculture and surface and groundwater availability,” said Craig Groves, executive director of the Science for Nature and People Partnership. “Drought and its impacts are much more complicated and profound than that. Even seemingly minor changes in water supply can have huge ecological impacts that are keenly felt by both people and nature. The Science for Nature and People Partnership is delighted to be working with USGS to better understand and respond to this mounting challenge for people from all parts of the country.”
“Climate change is likely to intensify the frequency and ferocity of droughts in places where it typically occurs, and lead to novel drought impacts in unexpected places,” said Giulio Boccaletti, Global Managing Director for Water, The Nature Conservancy. “The new SNAPP initiative will be crucial for helping us to better anticipate the range of future drought impacts so that we can implement strategies to protect people and nature, and improve the odds of achieving long-term benefits from our drought planning efforts.”
About the United States Geological Survey
The USGS is a science organization that provides impartial information on the health of our ecosystems and environment, the natural hazards that threaten us, the natural resources we rely on, the impacts of climate and land-use change, and the core science systems that help us provide timely, relevant, and useable information. For more information, visit http://usgs.gov.
About the Science for Nature and People Partnership
Founded in 2013, the Science for Nature and People (SNAPP) partnership is the world’s premier innovation engine of conservation science and sustainable development policy, partnering with public, non-profit and private sector organizations around the world to transform the relationship between people and nature. Backed by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara, SNAPP funds, convenes and supports Expert Working Groups addressing challenges in four focus areas: Food Security and Nature, Water Security and Nature, Community Resilience and Climate Change, and Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Benefits. SNAP has been generously supported by Angela Nomellini and Ken Olivier, Shirley and Harry Hagey, Steve and Roberta Denning, Seth Neiman, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. For more information, visit http://snappartnership.net/
Long-term declines in the overwintering Eastern population of North American monarch butterflies are significantly increasing their likelihood of becoming extinct over the next two decades, according to Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and U.S. Geological Survey research published today.Monarch Male Butterfly — A monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) resting and sunning at an overwintering site in the Piedra Herrada Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Mexico. This individual is a male, identifiable by the black spot on each hindwing. Photo credit: Steve Hilburger, USGS.
The new study, available in the journal Scientific Reports, found that the Eastern migratory monarch population declined by 84 percent from the winter of 1996-1997 to the winter of 2014-2015. Using this information, the study demonstrated that there is a substantial chance – 11 to 57 percent – of quasi-extinction over the next 20 years. A quasi-extinct population is one with so few remaining individuals left that recovery is impossible. While the remaining individuals may survive for a short time, the population as a whole will inevitably go extinct.Monarch Butterflies on Tree — A group of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) covers an oyamel fir tree (Abies religiosa) at an overwintering site in the Piedra Herrada Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Mexico. Photo credit: Steve Hilburger, USGS.
“Because monarch numbers vary dramatically from year to year depending on weather and other factors, increasing the average population size is the single-most important way to provide these iconic butterflies with a much-needed buffer against extinction,” said Brice Semmens, the lead author of the study and a scientist at Scripps.
Semmens said that as an example of this variability, just after the analysis concluded, the World Wildlife Fund Mexico and partners reported a large increase in monarch numbers since last year. However, this increase was followed by a recent winter storm that may have adversely affected the population. The authors emphasized that although one good winter – as occurred this year – is positive news, higher average monarch numbers are necessary for reducing the long-term risk of quasi-extinction.
Because counting individual monarchs is challenging, scientists measure population size based on the geographic area that their colonies cover while spending the winter in Mexico. The United States, Mexico and Canada aim to increase the number of Eastern monarchs wintering in Mexico so that they occupy about six hectares, or about 15 acres, by 2020. This year’s population size increased substantially to about four hectares, or close to 10 acres. The population was 1.13 hectares (about 2.8 acres) during the winter of 2014-2015, and at its lowest, 0.67 hectares (about 1.7 acres) during the 2013-2014 winter.
The Scripps and USGS scientists found that if the Eastern population reaches the six-hectare goal announced in last year’s national pollinator strategy, the quasi-extinction risk over 20 years would decrease by more than half.
“Previously published research suggested that the most effective way to increase monarch numbers is to focus on the restoration of their breeding habitat,” said USGS scientist Darius Semmens, a coauthor of the report. “Over the previous two winters, Eastern monarch populations were very low, indicating a higher risk of losing the species. If their numbers continue to grow, as they did this year, the risk will decrease.”
Scripps and the USGS collaborated with scientists from the University of Arizona, Iowa State University, University of Minnesota and the University of Kansas on the study. The research was conducted as part of the Monarch Conservation Science Partnership, a team of scientists and resource managers working together to help inform the management of monarch butterflies. The partnership was hosted by the USGS Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis in Fort Collins, Colorado.
About the Monarch Butterfly
Reasons for monarch population declines are complex, although some evidence suggests that loss of breeding habitat is the primary factor. Other factors include adverse weather conditions in recent years, loss of overwintering habitat, disease and exposure to contaminants.
There are two main populations of monarch butterflies in North America: the Western, which winters and migrates west of the Rocky Mountains, and the more abundant Eastern population, which is the subject of the new study and ranges east of the Rockies from central Mexico to southern Canada. Eastern monarchs breed in the United States and Canada, and migrate to Mexico for the winter. Western monarchs migrate inland north and east from colonies along the California coast to states ranging from Washington to Arizona. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering a petition to protect monarchs under the Endangered Species Act.
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The U.S. Geological Survey will award up to $7 million in grants for earthquake hazards research in 2017.
"The USGS has a long-standing grants program that supports innovative earthquake research, and we are currently soliciting project proposals for 2017," said Bill Leith, who is the USGS Senior Science Advisor for Earthquake and Geologic Hazards. "We seek proposals to better characterize earthquake sources, reduce uncertainty in earthquake hazard assessments or improve forecasts and other efforts to reduce risk. In addition, we welcome proposals that provide more accurate and timely earthquake information or aim to better inform the public about earthquakes and earthquake safety."
Interested researchers can apply online at GRANTS.GOV under funding opportunity number G16AS00024. Applications are due May 25, 2016.
Every year the USGS awards earthquake research grants to universities, state geological surveys and private institutions. Past projects included:
- trench investigations to better understand the size and age of large earthquakes between Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah;
- the application of innovative techniques to map seismic hazards near the nation’s capital;
- exploring the use of rapid and precise GPS recordings to improve earthquake early warning;
- analysis of the potential for large earthquakes in the Gorgonio Pass, an area of complex faulting east of San Bernardino, Calif.;
- investigation of recent earthquake activity along major fault lines crossing southeast Alaska; and
- studies to characterize and understand the causes of potentially induced earthquakes in California, Kansas, Wyoming, Texas and Ohio.
A complete list of funded projects and reports can be found on the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program external research support website.
Jon Campbell ( Phone: 703-648-4180 );
The U.S. Geological Survey and the European Space Agency (ESA) have established an innovative partnership to enable USGS storage and redistribution of Earth observation data acquired by Copernicus program satellites.
The ESA-USGS collaboration will serve scientific and commercial customers who are interested in the current conditions of forests, crops, and water bodies across large regions and in the longer term environmental condition of the Earth. Data acquired by the European Union’s Sentinel-2A satellite launched in June 2015 are highly complementary to data acquired by USGS/NASA Landsat satellites since 1972.
"Landsat and Sentinel data will weave together very effectively," said Dr. Virginia Burkett, USGS Associate Director for Climate and Land Use Change. "Adding the image recurrence of two Sentinel-2 satellites to Landsats 7 and 8 will increase repeat multispectral coverage of the Earth’s land areas to every 3 to 4 days. With more frequent views of the Earth, we will significantly improve our ability to see and understand changes taking place across the global landscape.”
The agreement is part of a broader understanding between the European Union and three U.S. federal science agencies — NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and USGS — that was signed in October 2015. All parties are committed to the principle of full, free and open access to Earth observation satellite data produced by the European Union’s Sentinel program and by the respective U.S. agencies. An ESA article further describes the cross-Atlantic collaboration.
"Free and open access to Landsat and Sentinel-2 data together will create remarkable economic and scientific benefits for people around the globe," said Dr. Suzette Kimball, Director of the U.S. Geological Survey. "At the outset of our partnership we can only imagine the synergies between our two perspectives from space. But I'm confident that the final product of our partnership will be an enriched knowledge of our planet."
Sentinel data are available at no cost from the Copernicus Scientific Data Hub. Additionally, in order to expedite data delivery around the globe, users may also download both Sentinel-2 and Landsat data at no charge in a familiar digital environment from USGS access systems such as EarthExplorer. Presently, only selected Sentinel data are available from the USGS in an early testing phase. Timely access to all Sentinel data will follow as the procedures for data transfer, user access, and data delivery continue to be optimized at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center.
The MultiSpectral Instrument (MSI) sensor on board Sentinel 2A acquires 13 spectral bands that parallel and contrast to data acquired by the USGS Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) and Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+). Unlike the Sentinel-2 satellites, Landsat satellites also include a capability to collect thermal infrared data which is used in a variety of water and agricultural monitoring applications. NASA has published an online comparison of Sentinel-2A and Landsat bandwidths.
The Landsat program is a joint effort of USGS and NASA. First launched by NASA in 1972, the Landsat series of satellites has produced the longest, continuous record of Earth’s land surface as seen from space. Landsat data were made available to all users free of charge by the U.S. Department of the Interior and USGS in 2008.
Recent scientific work outlines the severe consequences the practice of bottom trawling has on loose sediment on the ocean floor. Bottom trawling is a widespread industrial fishing practice that involves dragging heavy nets, large metal doors and chains over the seafloor to catch fish. Although previous studies documented the direct impacts of bottom trawling on corals, sponges, fishes and other animals, an understanding of the global impact of this practice on the seabed remained unclear until now. The first calculation of how much of the seabed is resuspended (or stirred up) by bottom-trawling shows that the sediment mass is approximately the same amount of all sediment being deposited on the world’s continental shelves by rivers each year (almost 22 gigatons).
Understanding regional and global magnitudes of resuspended sediment is an essential baseline for the analysis of the environmental consequences for continental shelf habitats and their associated seafloor and open-ocean ecosystems. The scientists found new ways to look at and into the seabed to document the evidence of the effects of bottom trawling.
Bottom trawling can result in vastly different effects on different types of seabed sediment (such as sand, silt or mud), each with different ecological consequences. Trawling destroys the natural seafloor habitat by essentially rototilling the seabed. All of the bottom-dwelling plants and animals are affected, if not outright destroyed by tearing up root systems or animal burrows. By resuspending bottom sediment, nutrient levels in the ambient water, and the entire chemistry of the water is changed. Resuspended sediment can lower light levels in the water, and reduce photosynthesis in ocean-dwelling plants, the bottom of the food web. The resuspended sediment is carried elsewhere by currents, and often lost from the local ecosystem. It maybe deposited elsewhere along the continental shelf, or in many cases, permanently lost from the shelf to deeper waters. Changing parts of the seafloor from soft mud to bare rock can eliminate those creatures that live in the sediment. Species diversity and habitat complexity are directly affected by changing the physical environment of sand, mud or rock that results from trawling.Conceptual drawing of bottom trawling from a fishing boat, showing a net and metal plate being dragged along the seafloor behind a boat on the surface. Artist: Ferdinand Oberle, 2014.
“This study raises serious concerns about the future stability of continental shelves – the very source of the vast majority of the fish we consume,” said geological oceanographer and lead author Ferdinand Oberle, now a visiting scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey, and previously with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and MARUM, the Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen (Germany) when the study was done. “A farmer would never plow his land again and again during a rainstorm, watching all his topsoil be washed away, but that is exactly what we are doing on continental shelves on a global scale.”
As part of the study, scientists developed a new, universal approach to calculate bottom-trawling-induced sediment resuspension that gives marine management a new and important tool to assess the impact from bottom trawling. Previous studies characterized the seabed as either “trawled” or “untrawled” but with these novel methodologies it was possible to show systematically a range of bottom-trawling-induced changes to the seabed and classify them in accordance with how often the seabed was disturbed by bottom trawlers.
“The global calculations were a big surprise and we calculated them at least 10 times to make sure we were not making a mistake. I am still in awe of these results and their environmental implications,” said USGS oceanographer Curt Storlazzi, a coauthor of the paper who helped develop the computational models for the study.
These new understandings about the effects of bottom trawling, come out of scientific cruises on the Research Vessel METEOR from Germany to the offshore area northwest of the Iberian peninsula with a team of international scientists. During the cruises, scientists conducted sidescan-sonar surveys and collected bottom current data. Laser sediment particle samplers and a remotely-operated submersible vessel were utilized as well. After the cruises, laboratory work involving lead-isotope dating and sediment grain-size analysis, and the development of a sediment mobilization model contributed to the conclusions of the study.
Two new research papers to come out of this study were published in Elsevier's “Journal of Marine Systems,” and are available online:
Deployment of Scientific Research Equipment (Tripod) from ship, RV Meteor. Photo courtesy of Ferdinand Oberle. One of the many passing bottom trawlers on the NW Iberian Shelf as seen from Research Vessel METEOR. Photo courtesy of Ferdinand Oberle. Oceanographic Research Vessel METEOR. Photo courtesy of Ferdinand Oberle. Oceanographic Research Vessel METEOR. Photo courtesy of Ferdinand Oberle.
Much of the coast from Maine to Virginia is more likely to change than to simply drown in response to rising seas during the next 70 years or so, according to a new study led by the U.S. Geological Survey. The study is based on a new computer model that captures the potential of the Northeast coast to change, driven by geological and biological forces, in ways that will reshape coastal landscapes.
In a paper published Monday in Nature Climate Change, the researchers reported that 70 percent of the Northeast Atlantic Coast is made up of ecosystems that have the capacity to change over the next several decades in response to rising seas. For example, barrier islands may migrate inland, build dunes, change shape, or be split by new inlets as tides, winds, waves and currents sculpt their sands. Marshes trap sediment and break down decaying plants into new soil, which may elevate them sufficiently in some areas to keep pace with sea-level increases.
While most sea-level rise models that cover large areas show low-lying coastal land converting to open water in coming decades, many of these inundation models over-predict the land likely to submerge. The USGS model, developed in collaboration with Columbia University’s Earth Institute, produces a more nuanced picture of sea level rise as a mosaic of dry land, wetlands, and open seas, rather than as a uniform response across the landscape.
The USGS model is the first to factor in natural forces and make detailed predictions from the 2020s through the 2080s over a large coastal area, some 38,000 square kilometers (about 9.4 million acres). It is an advance over most regional models, which project drowning as the only outcome as the oceans rise. These are often referred to as “bathtub models” and assume the coast is progressively submerged as sea levels rise.
Projections from inundation models are straightforward: some coastal land will remain above the levels of the rising seas and some will drown. The new model includes the potential for dynamic coastal change and shows where in response to future sea levels, coastal lands fall on a continuum between dry land and open water.
“Geologists have always known that the coast has some potential for give and take,” said lead author Erika Lentz, a research geologist at the USGS Coastal and Marine Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. “But the standard bathtub models of sea level rise don’t reflect that. This approach couples what we do know about these systems with what we still need to learn—how different ecosystems may respond to different sea-level rise scenarios— to estimate the odds that an area will persist or change instead of simply drown.”
By casting results in terms of odds, the new model provides a more accurate picture of sea-level rise vulnerability for informing adaptation strategies and reducing hazards, the USGS researchers say. They make it clear, however, that just because an area is less likely to drown might not mean it is less vulnerable. “Our model results suggest that even natural changes may pose problems,” Lentz said. “For example, the likelihood that barrier islands will change could impact the infrastructure and economies of coastal communities, and the barrier islands or marshes may not protect coastal communities in the same way they do today.”
In fact, the outcome is uncertain for the Northeast’s low-lying developed coastlines, where seawalls, buildings and other immovable structures thwart some natural processes. The model found the region’s developed coastal lands lying 1 meter (about 3 1/2 feet) or less above sea level will likely face a tipping point by the 2030s, when humans’ decisions about whether and how to protect each area will determine if it survives or drowns.
A 2012 USGS study identified the densely populated region from Cape Hatteras to Boston as a hot spot where seas are rising faster than the global average, so land managers urgently need to understand how their coastal landscape may change, said John Haines, coordinator of the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program.
“The model allows us to identify vulnerable areas, and that information can be very valuable to land managers as they consider whether to protect, relocate or let go of certain assets,” Haines said. “Even when the results are uncertain, it’s useful to know there’s a 50 percent chance that an important habitat or infrastructure project may be lost in a few decades.”
To come up with their model for the Northeastern United States, the researchers mapped all coastal land between 10 meters (about 33 feet) above sea level and 10 meters below it, from the Virginia-North Carolina line to the Maine-Canada border. They factored in a variety of forces that affect coastal change, from planetary phenomena like the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates to local ones like falling groundwater levels that cause land surfaces to sink. Looking at parcels of 30 meters by 30 meters—about the size of two NBA basketball courts side by side—they weighed the balance of forces on each parcel.
Using scenarios that assume humans will continue adding moderate to high levels of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere through the 21st century, the team projected global sea level rise for the 2020s through the 2080s, and applied that to the coast. The model then estimated the likelihood, from 0 to 100 percent, that each parcel will persist above sea level at the end of each decade.
Predictions for many parcels fell close to 50 percent in the first few decades, a tossup between drowning and surviving. The uncertainty was greatest when the researchers had to wrestle with more than one question that can’t yet be definitively answered. Among them are, how fast will seas rise, can coastal marshes make new soil quickly enough to stay above the waves, and what engineering strategies will people use to protect some shorelines?
“By building in our understanding of the sea level rise response of the coastal landscape, we’re providing a more realistic picture of coastal change in the Northeastern U.S. over the next several decades,” Lentz said.
The researchers’ next step will be to group the basketball-court-sized parcels into larger areas, such as major coastal cities, national wildlife refuges, and national seashores, and assess the vulnerability of these areas to future change and drowning. This information may assist decisionmakers as they develop management priorities to address longer-term coastal challenges.
This research was supported by the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program and the Department of the Interior Northeast Climate Science Center (NE CSC), which is managed by the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. The NE CSC is one of eight that provides scientific information to help natural resource managers respond effectively to climate change.
USGS scientists, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Minnesota and University of Alaska Fairbanks, have mapped belowground permafrost in areas of Alaska that have been affected by wildfire, years-to-decades after the fires occurred.Scientists deploy geophysical equipment in the Nome Creek, Alaska area to assess the effect of wildfire on permafrost. Small electrical signals are injected into the ground through metal stakes connected to the orange cable in the foreground. The measured response is used to detect belowground permafrost conditions. USGS photo, Burke Minsley, 2014.
“There has been global concern for many years about the effects of the warming climate on high-latitude permafrost and its vast stores of organic carbon," said Virginia Burkett, USGS Associate Director for Climate and Land Use Change. “When permafrost thaws, carbon currently locked up in the frozen ground is released to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide or methane. Wildfires amplify carbon emissions from declining permafrost in ways we are just now beginning to understand."
Exceptionally warm and dry weather caused hundreds of wildfires in Alaska and Canada in 2015. Millions of acres of land were burned, causing immediate risk and disturbance to local residents and ecosystems, with plumes of smoke that carried all the way to the lower 48 states.
During two years of extensive field surveys in interior Alaska, the research team combined field observations with geophysical measurements that crossed the boundaries of historical and recent fires to analyze the impacts of wildfire on the underlying permafrost. The impact of fire on permafrost can be highly variable across different landscapes.
“Data from the geophysical surveys give us a detailed picture of how permafrost is distributed in the subsurface. This new information helps improve our understanding of how permafrost has changed in response to fire,” said Burke Minsley, a USGS geophysicist and lead author of the study.
“The geophysical techniques we used can be compared to medical imaging that probes the human body without surgery,” Minsley continued. “We can ‘see’ permafrost conditions underground without expensive and disruptive drilling. Data about wildfires and permafrost conditions can be combined with satellite remote sensing observations to help extend interpretations over much larger areas across the state.”
Scientists have long known that severe fires can remove the layer of organic material at the ground surface that serves to insulate permafrost and maintain frozen conditions. This study documented locations where permafrost appears to be resilient to disturbance from fire, areas where warm permafrost conditions exist that may be vulnerable to future change, areas where permafrost has thawed, and one location where permafrost appears to be recovering after fire. More information is needed to quantify fire impacts on permafrost in order to assess future vulnerabilities.
The research article was recently published online in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface , a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
Recent USGS press releases on permafrost:
USGS Projects Large Loss of Alaska Permafrost by 2100 (11/30/15)
Arctic Tundra Fire Causes Widespread Permafrost Landscape Changes (11/12/15)
Ancient Permafrost Quickly Transforms to Carbon Dioxide upon Thaw (10/26/15)
The U.S. Geological Survey has announced the first recipients of the 2016 partnership funding awards for the 3D Elevation Program. This program, referred to as 3DEP, presents a unique opportunity for collaboration between the USGS and other federal, state and local agencies to leverage the services and expertise of private sector mapping firms that acquire high-quality, three-dimensional mapping data of the United States.
“We are very excited about the growing interest in our 3DEP initiative across all levels of government. I’m particularly pleased with the outstanding quality of the project proposals we received for this award opportunity,” said Kevin Gallagher, USGS Associate Director for Core Science Systems.
Thus far in 2016, partnership funding has been awarded to 21 proposals in 19 states and territories. The total data acquisition for FY16 is expected to result in the influx of more than 150,000 square miles of public domain lidar point cloud data and derived elevation products into the 3DEP program.
These 2016 awards are the result of a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the 3D Elevation Program, issued on July 17, 2015. (Fed Biz Opps G15PS00558 and Grants.gov G15AS00123). The BAA is a publicly accessible process to develop partnerships for the collection of lidar and derived elevation data for 3DEP.
The primary goal of 3DEP is to systematically collect nationwide lidar data, with IfSAR data in Alaska, over an 8-year period. 3DEP is designed based on an extensive benefit-cost analysis to conservatively provide new benefits of $690 million/year with the potential to generate $13 billion/year in new benefits through applications that span the economy.
Lidar, short for light detection and ranging, is a remote sensing detection system that works on the principle of radar, but uses light from a laser. Similarly, IfSAR, short for interferometric synthetic aperture radar is used to collect data over Alaska due to cloud cover, extreme weather conditions, rugged terrain and remote locations.
Current and accurate 3D elevation data are essential to help communities cope with natural hazards and disasters such as floods and landslides, support infrastructure, ensure agricultural success, strengthen environmental decision-making and bolster national security.
Federal funds to support this opportunity were provided by the USGS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The USGS is acting in a management role to facilitate planning and acquisition for the broader community, through the use of government contracts and partnership agreements.
More information about 3DEP including updates on current and future 3DEP partnership opportunities is available online.
Map depicts the status of BAA awards to date. Project selection is ongoing and will be posted at the 3DEP website. The FY16 3DEP data acquisition is projected to add more than 150,000 square miles of 3DEP quality lidar data to the national database. For the complete list, visit the 2016 Lidar Awards Page.
Scientists have collected and analyzed 84 environmental samples to establish baseline data prior to any active uranium mining activities at the Canyon Uranium Mine, located south of Grand Canyon National Park. This baseline information will play an important role in assessing if contaminants escape from the mine site and how they would move through the environment once mining operations begin.
Canyon Mine is currently not producing any uranium ore. The mine is located within the public lands acreage in northern Arizona that the Department of the Interior withdrew in 2012 from consideration for new uranium mining claims for 20 years. However, Canyon Mine can still produce uranium ore, because it is one of four pre-existing mines that were permitted before the 2012 decision.
“A key factor in Interior’s 2012 decision was the limited amount of scientific data available to assess potential uranium extraction effects on the Grand Canyon and surrounding areas,” said USGS director Suzette Kimball. “Fortunately, the USGS has expertise across the country in collecting baseline data and analyzing samples for water and sediment quality.”
USGS scientists have worked with the mine owners to collect samples for the baseline data study.
“Getting into the Canyon Mine area before any ore is extracted has provided an excellent opportunity to get high-quality baseline data,” said USGS scientist Katie Walton-Day, who leads the research team on this project. “That data are necessary to quantitatively assess off-site migration, if any, of mine-related contaminants resulting from future ore extraction activities at the Canyon Mine.”
Baseline data from the study includes analysis of 33 contaminants in the 84 samples, including uranium, arsenic, molybdenum and vanadium. The following chart provides some of the results:
Inside mine perimeter (n = 3)
Low Mean High
Outside mine perimeter (n = 72)
Low Mean High
3.3 5.6 9.9
1.4 2.0 6.2
23 35 58
7.1 10 18
1.4 2.1 3.2
0.75 1.1 2.4
43 52 57
29 45 59
In addition to establishing the baseline in soils and stream sediments around the mine site, USGS scientists are studying the plant and animal life in the area to determine which species to monitor once mining begins.
“Biologists are looking at what types of species live here, how many of each species there are, and even what levels of contaminants are already in their tissues,” said USGS scientist David Naftz, lead author of the study. “When combined with the soil and sediment samples, we’ll have a really clear snapshot of what conditions are like here before any uranium ore is extracted.”
The results of the study were published this week in the journal Geoderma Regional. More information about the study can be found here. The approach and baseline data are part of a long-term comprehensive study designed by USGS to establish radiological and chemical baselines and environmental pathways of exposure within and surrounding the Canyon Uranium Mine, in northern Arizona prior to ore extraction.
The USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program and Environmental Health Mission Area provide objective scientific information on environmental contamination to improve characterization and management of contaminated sites, to protect human and environmental health, and to reduce potential future contamination problems.
Catherine Puckett ( Phone: 352-377-2469 );
DIXON, Calif. – Ravens are almost fifty percent more likely to inhabit areas in sagebrush landscapes if cattle are present, and preferentially select sites near greater sage-grouse breeding grounds.
These findings have implications for greater sage-grouse management practices aimed at reducing raven predation on sage-grouse nests, according to research published in Ecosphere.
Raven abundance in the sagebrush-steppe of the American West has increased three-fold during the last four decades, mostly as a result of unintended food and water subsidies from human land-use practices. Predation is the primary source of sage-grouse nest failure, and reducing ravens access to food and water subsidies could assist with conservation efforts. While removal of ravens may reduce their local abundance in the short term, removing subsidies that promote ravens will likely be more effective for long-term control of raven predation.
U.S. Geological Survey and Idaho State University scientists examined the influence of livestock on common ravens in about 400 square miles of sagebrush-steppe ecosystem in southeastern Idaho. Grazing by livestock in these systems is common practice on many public lands, but potential influences of livestock on ravens are poorly understood.
“Common ravens are a known predator of numerous species including the greater sage-grouse,” said lead author and USGS scientist Peter Coates. “This study provides information to help rangeland resource managers develop conservation actions that focus on increasing the reproductive success of greater sage-grouse. For example, limiting raven access to livestock resources, such as water troughs, and adjusting the timing of livestock access to sage-grouse breeding areas during the spring, would likely reduce raven predation on sage-grouse eggs.”
Research findings include:
- The probability of raven occurrence increased by 45.8 percent in areas where cattle were present.
- Ravens preferentially selected areas near sage-grouse breeding grounds, called leks, especially at sites where cattle were present.
- Landscape characteristics also influenced raven occurrence. For example, ravens selected relatively open (fewer trees) low elevation areas, specifically those with cropland, wet meadow and urbanization.
The study was a partnership of the USGS, Idaho State University, and Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The journal article is available here. Additional project information can be found at the USGS Western Ecological Research Center website.
About Greater Sage-Grouse and the Great Basin
The Great Basin comprises more than 72.7 million hectares (more than 179 million acres) across five states: Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and California. Wildfire has been identified as a primary disturbance in the Great Basin.
Greater sage-grouse occur in parts of 11 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces in western North America. Implementation of effective management actions for the benefit of sage-grouse continues to be a focus of Department of the Interior agencies following the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the species is not warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
Snake fungal disease, or SFD, a disease causing high mortality rates in some species of snakes, has been found in Louisiana for the first time, according to a new study by U.S. Geological Survey scientists. SFD now has been confirmed in at least 16 states in the Eastern and Midwestern United States.
Wild snakes play important roles in ecosystems as both predator and prey. They provide direct benefits to humans such as consuming crop-destroying pests. Snakes are efficient predators upon various rodents, which may damage property, ruin crops and spread disease. In addition, snake venom research has provided several medicines that are used to halt heart attacks and prevent blood clots and continues to show promise in other areas of medicine.
“Snakes may not be everyone’s favorite animal, but they are undeniably important in a well-balanced ecosystem,” said USGS Ecologist Brad “Bones” Glorioso, lead author of the study. “They deserve our respect and understanding.”
SFD is characterized by scabs or crusty scales, nodules below the skin, cloudy eyes, abnormal molting, and areas of thickened skin. Snakes infected with SFD, besides being lethargic and lacking an appetite, will attempt to bask in the sun to raise their body temperatures despite unsuitable conditions. This behavior, in addition to the fact that infected snakes are often in poor body condition, makes them more vulnerable to predators.
“SFD is an emerging threat to wild snake populations particularly in the eastern United States,” Glorioso added. “We don’t know yet how the disease affects various species, but in at least one species, an estimated 80 to 90 percent of infected snakes die from the disease.”
In Louisiana, the first confirmed case of the disease was in a juvenile snake from the Cypress Island Preserve near Lafayette. It is one of the few documented cases in the US of the disease in a juvenile snake.
“Finding the disease in a juvenile snake is of particular concern. If younger snakes die from the disease before reaching reproductive age, it could have devastating effects on snake populations,” said Glorioso.
Since completing the initial study, the researchers have confirmed the presence of the disease in snakes from other locations in the state.
In the last two decades, fungal and fungal-like diseases, including chytridiomycosis in amphibians, white-nose syndrome in bats, and colony collapse disorder in bees, have caused some of the most severe die-offs and extinctions ever observed in wild species.
USGS scientists recently identified the specific fungus responsible for causing snake fungal disease.
The disease was implicated in recent die-offs and declines in populations of two protected species of pit viper in the Midwest and Northeast. In Midwest populations of the massasauga, a candidate for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act, infected snakes have an estimated 80 percent to 90 percent mortality rate. Mortality rates of infected timber rattlesnakes in the Northeast are estimated between 30 percent and 70 percent.
To date, the disease has been confirmed in at least 14 snake species including the northern water snake; racer; rat snake; timber rattlesnake; massasauga; pygmy rattlesnake; milk snake; plains garter snake; mud snake and southern water snake. It is believed to be more widespread than is currently documented as snakes showing signs of infection have been reported in other states and in other species.
The authors have begun a more detailed capture-mark-recapture study on snakes at Palmetto Island State Park that includes taking swabs of all snakes, including those that appear healthy, to be tested for the presence of the fungus that causes SFD. This protocol will allow them to model survival probability based on whether the snake was positive or negative for the fungus, and to determine population trends.
The study, “First Documented Case of Snake Fungal Disease in a Free-ranging Wild Snake in Louisiana,” was published in Southeastern Naturalist.
A juvenile Broad-banded Watersnake that tested positive for snake fungal disease (SFD) exhibiting ulceration of the skin on the head from St. Martin Parish, Louisiana. SFD has proven lethal in many snakes, and the disease is recognized as an emerging threat to wild snake populations.
An unknown hybrid species of salamander captured in Olympic National Park, Washington. The eft stage of a red-spotted newt in Walker County, Georgia (Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area)
The areas of the United States that are most at risk of a potentially invasive salamander fungus are the Pacific coast, the southern Appalachian Mountains and the mid-Atlantic regions, according to a recently published U.S. Geological Survey report.
These findings can help managers protect already declining amphibians in the U.S. from the Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, or Bsal, fungus. Bsal is decimating wild salamander populations in Europe and could emerge in the U.S. through the captive amphibian trade. The new USGS study identifies areas of the U.S. with high likelihoods of two risks: Bsal introduction and severe consequences for local salamanders.
“The eastern U.S. has the highest diversity of salamanders in the world, and the introduction of this new pathogen is likely to be devastating,” said Katherine Richgels, a USGS researcher and the lead author of the study. “Our findings can help with early Bsal detections by highlighting high-risk areas.”
Scientists developed a county-specific Bsal risk assessment for the U.S. by analyzing characteristics of Bsal ecology, such as optimal temperatures for fungal growth, and data on amphibian imports, pet trade establishments and the regional diversity of salamander species. They found that if Bsal enters the country:
- The total risk of Bsal to salamanders is highest throughout the eastern U.S., particularly the mid-Atlantic states of New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.
- The Pacific coast and Appalachian Mountains are likely to have significant population declines due to high concentrations of diverse salamander species and mild climates that are well suited to Bsal growth.
“Amphibians are the most endangered vertebrates in the world,” Richgels said. “Disease risk assessments like ours can help managers prevent and mitigate losses of vulnerable U.S. salamanders.”
Bsal was first identified in 2013 as the cause of mass wild salamander die-offs in the Netherlands and Belgium. Captive salamander die-offs due to Bsal have occurred in the United Kingdom and Germany. Scientists believe Bsal originated in Asia and spread to wild European populations through the import and export of salamanders.
“Bsal represents one of the most significant disease threats to U.S. wildlife since the emergence of white-nose syndrome, which has devastated hibernating bat populations in the eastern U.S.,” said Anne Kinsinger, Associate Director of Ecosystems for the USGS.
The USGS risk assessment informed a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service interim rule prohibiting the importation and interstate transport of certain salamander species. The USGS National Wildlife Health Center is leading early detection surveillance for the potential introduction of Bsal in the U.S. Early detection would allow for rapid management actions to prevent and control the spread of the fungus should it be found.
Among the hundreds of invasive species already established in the U.S. is the microscopic chytrid fungus that has devastated amphibian populations. On February 18, the Department of the Interior released an interdepartmental report. The report proposes to stop the introduction and spread of invasive species through a coordinated set of actions to find and eradicate potential invasive species before they spread and cause harm.
For more information on emerging wildlife diseases, please visit the USGS National Wildlife Health Center website.A three-lined salamander (Eurycea guttolineata) discovered in Prince William Forest Park, VA. Aneides aeneus (Green salamander) Howards Waterfall Cave, Southeastern Cave Conservancy Preserve, Dade County, Georgia 1. This black-bellied salamander (Desmognathus quadramaculatus) was found in the Citico Creek Wilderness, Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee.
Heidi Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 );
The ongoing resource, climate, hazards and environmental issues of the United States are addressed in a new U.S. Geological Survey product, providing an overview of the USGS Mineral Resources Program's multidisciplinary science.
The report highlights more than 50 selected activities that were conducted within the Integrated Methods Development Project, an interdisciplinary project designed to develop new tools and conduct innovative research integrating geologic, geophysical, geochemical, and remote-sensing expertise.
“This new product showcases the breadth and diversity of the USGS Mineral Resources Program and its ability to undertake complex research topics spanning from microscopic to planetary scales,” said USGS scientist emeritus Kathy Smith, the report’s lead editor.
The report includes studies that address the location, quantity and quality of mineral resources and the potential environmental consequences of resource development. In addition, a number of field and laboratory capabilities and interpretative methodologies are highlighted.
“These capabilities have applications to resource studies as well as to studies related to ecosystem health, human health, disaster and hazard assessment, and planetary science,” said Smith.
New tools developed within the IMDP have been applied to an extensive array of projects and research areas. For example, geophysical equipment and techniques developed in-house are now used in a variety of traditional and nontraditional mineral, energy and water resource studies, military applications and environmental investigations. Several geophysical applications include studies on climate change, volcanic hazards, geologic mapping and monitoring capabilities. Diverse applied geochemistry activities provide a process-level understanding of transport and bioavailability of metals in a variety of environmental settings.
USGS scientists have detected toxins known as microcystins produced by various forms of algae in 39 percent of the small streams assessed throughout the southeastern United States. Their recent study looked at 75 streams in portions of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
“This is the first systematic stream survey of algal toxins in the southeastern United States,” said Keith Loftin, the USGS research chemist who led the study. “It’s important, because it provides a better understanding of the occurrence of these microcystins in aquatic ecosystems with flowing waters.”
Microcystins are a well-known public health concern. Public health practitioners and medical researchers have observed a range of symptoms in humans after exposure to microcystins. Symptoms can include nausea, dermatitis and, in severe cases, liver failure. Toxicity issues have been reported for humans, companion animals, livestock and wildlife.
Although the maximum microcystin concentration measured in this study (3.2 µg/L) did not exceed World Health Organization moderate risk thresholds (10 µg/L) in the streams sampled, further research is needed to understand the potential effects on water quality and related environmental health concerns in downstream aquatic ecosystems, lakes and drinking water reservoirs.
Previous research indicated that cyanobacteria, a form of algae capable of producing microcystins, were found in 74 percent of the streams assessed throughout the southeastern United States. However, that research did not include the study of microcystins.
This is the first of several regional assessments of algal toxins, which will provide context for the design of future environmental health studies. These studies will investigate land-use and other factors that may influence or create new environmental pathways of exposures to cyanobacteria and associated toxins. Ongoing work by the USGS in the Pacific Northwest and planned work in the northeastern United States and California will expand our understanding of cyanobacteria and toxins in a wider variety of aquatic ecosystems.
Two recent USGS investigations have measured sedimentation rates along the barely perceptible slope of rivers as they empty into estuaries. The findings of these studies have important implications for the restoration of estuaries — for example, the Chesapeake Bay — and their resilience in the face of sea level rise.
The studies compared the sedimentation rates found in upriver tidal freshwater swamps (located at the furthest inland reach of tides) to the rate found in brackish water marshes downstream at the lowest reaches of the rivers.Areas like this tidal freshwater swamp, along the Pocomoke River in Maryland, provide important ecosystem services including improving water quality by trapping watershed sediment before it reaches the Chesapeake Bay. However, a sediment shadow along tidal rivers may limit their resilience to the impacts of sea level rise. Photo: Scott Ensign, USGS.
“Sediment trapping in tidal freshwater wetlands is critical for protecting the water quality of estuaries and enhancing the resilience of those wetlands to sea level rise,” said Scott Phillips, USGS science coordinator for the Chesapeake Bay. “These wetlands help reduce nutrients and contaminants from reaching the Bay and also provide critical habitat for waterfowl.”
A study by Ensign et al demonstrated sediment transport bottlenecks in tidal rivers of Maryland. The bottleneck occurs where watershed sediment is trapped by tidal freshwater swamps at the head-of-tide and where estuarine sediment transported upriver by tidal action is trapped by brackish wetlands in the Chesapeake Bay.
This process leaves minimal sediment availability to tidal freshwater wetlands just below the head-of-tide, producing a “sediment shadow” that reduces the resilience of wetlands to the impacts of sea level rise. The shadow of reduced sediment accumulation also means that Atlantic Coastal Plain watersheds have very little of their watershed sediment delivered to estuaries and the coastal zone.
Research by Noe et al found a difference in the basic chemistry of sediment deposited in tidal freshwater swamps compared to brackish wetlands in South Carolina and Georgia, a determination that further supports the conclusion that watershed sediment is trapped out by tidal freshwater wetlands while estuarine sediment is delivered upstream to brackish wetlands.
Moreover, the Noe study found, sediment accumulation rates have changed over time. Historically, even more sediment was trapped by the upriver tidal freshwater wetlands. The change is likely due to greater availability in the past of “legacy” sediment from post-colonial land use and soil erosion. Modern sediment trapping is greatest overall in downriver brackish wetlands, likely due to sea level rise that has moved the estuarine turbidity maximum upstream.
Together these studies, along with others, show that tidal freshwater wetlands downstream of the head-of-tide have the lowest sediment accumulation rates along river-to-estuarine gradients. Consequently, these areas may have the least resilience to increased rates of sea level rise. In general, sediment trapping helps tidal wetlands increase in elevation to keep pace with rising sea levels. The effect of excessive saltwater exposure on tidal freshwater swamps is easily seen in places where tree death has produced spindly “ghost forests” that eventually convert into brackish marshes.
The sediment shadow also means that little of the watershed sediment and associated nutrient loads in lowland coastal rivers actually reaches estuaries. For example, in the smaller rivers that empty into the Chesapeake Bay (characterized by extensive tidal freshwater wetlands in contrast to minimal tidal freshwater wetlands found in large embayed tributaries), a large portion of the watershed sediment load (and associated phosphorus and nitrogen) is removed by tidal wetlands prior to reaching the bay.
These new insights about the complexity of sediment, carbon, and nutrient transport from watersheds to estuaries can help water quality managers to more accurately forecast the effects of watershed changes on estuarine water quality and improve adaptive management.
WASHINGTON—The President’s fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request for the U.S. Geological Survey reflects the USGS's vital role in addressing some of the most pressing challenges of the 21st Century by advancing scientific discovery and innovation. The $1.2 billion FY 2017 request supports USGS' ability to maintain the diversity of its scientific expertise so it can continue the large-scale, multi-disciplinary investigations it is uniquely qualified to carry out and provide impartial science to resource managers and planners.
“This is a smart, innovative and forward-looking budget that invests in Interior’s key missions – now and in the future – so we can continue to serve the American people,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “The President’s budget provides targeted investments to create economic opportunities by growing our domestic energy portfolio, building climate resilient communities, and revitalizing America’s national parks as we mark their 100th anniversary. Consistent with the President’s abiding commitment to Indian Country, this budget provides critical support for Tribal self-determination and economic advancement, including a historic transformation of the Bureau of Indian Education school system to help improve education for Indian children.”
“Our diversity of scientific expertise uniquely positions the USGS to help address today's critical natural resource issues,” said Suzette Kimball, USGS Director. “From earthquakes to invasive species, from water quality to critical minerals, USGS science plays a pivotal role and this budget request supports that important mission."
The FY 2017 budget request allows the USGS to advance priorities set forth in the USGS Science Strategy Plans, such as: developing the ground system for Landsat 9; informing the management of water for the 21st century; understanding climate and land-use change; investigating new and emerging invasive species and disease; improving science for rapid disaster response and prevention; developing enhanced mapping tools and products; advancing landscape-level sciences; conducting critical mineral and energy resources research; and pursuing studies that protect environmental health.
This budget is also designed to keep core USGS science programs intact. These programs provide valuable services to the Nation and include science that helps decision makers minimize loss of life and property, manage natural resources, and protect and enhance our quality of life.
Key increases in the FY 2017 budget are summarized below. For more detailed information on the President’s FY 2017 budget, visit the USGS Budget, Planning, and Integration website.Water Resources
The FY 2017 USGS budget request provides an increase of $17.3 million above the FY2016 enacted level for Water Resources research for a total of $228 million. The budget requests $60.2 million for Water Resources programs to use in matching State, municipality, and Tribal contributions for cooperative water efforts. This includes a $4 million increase under the Water Availability and Use Science Program to develop a near real-time assessment of regional and national water-use trends during drought periods. Other increases totaling $8.1 million would integrate water information from multiple agencies, provide state water resource agencies with the necessary base data at the resolution needed for decision making, and would develop better methods for sampling, estimating, aggregating, and presenting water use data. This increase also supports efforts to assess water budgets across snow-dominated regions of the Nation; including assessing systems, anticipating future changes, and extrapolating from monitored to unmonitored locations across critical landscapes in the Arctic.
The USGS budget also includes a $1.4 million increase for the Groundwater and Streamflow Information Program to expand the use of flood inundation mapping and rapidly deployable streamgages, which provide crucial data to help manage flood response. In addition, the increase will also target the use of enhanced streamflow information to help decision makers support tribal water needs.
The National Water Quality Program increase of $3.5 million will enhance long-term surface- and groundwater-quality monitoring in Cycle 3 of the Program. This increase will further support cooperative and urban-waters activities by providing streamflow and water-quality data to state and local partners. The data are used to plan economic revitalization and restore urban waters. Additionally, the NWQP increase funds research to understand the effects of unconventional oil and gas extraction on streams and groundwater.Natural Hazards
The FY 2017 USGS budget request for Natural Hazards includes a $10.7 million increase above the FY 2016 enacted level for a total of $149.7 million. It funds science to help protect the Nation’s safety, security, and economic well-being, to make the United States more resilient to natural hazards, and to develop user driven tools to make communities safer.
The Earthquake Hazards Program increase of $1.7 million would fund induced seismicity research related to unconventional oil and gas production and improve earthquake monitoring by assuming long-term operations of about 160 seismographs in the Central and Eastern U.S. An additional $860,000 would fund sensors at select Global Seismographic Network sites. The budget continues funding of $8.2 million to implement a limited earthquake early warning system on the West Coast by expanding seismometer coverage outward around major urban areas, integrating fault slip data into the system, developing and testing the system to improve reliability, and end-user education efforts on how to understand and use alerts.
The Natural Hazards budget increase includes a Coastal and Marine Geology Program increase of $5.8 million, which would benefit coastal communities, including those in the Arctic, dealing with sea-level rise, severe storms, and melting permafrost. The increase would also fund research and modeling to apply findings from Hurricane Sandy to other parts of the U.S. coastline.
An increase of $1.7 million for the Geomagnetism Program would enhance USGS monitoring of electrical currents in the Earth’s crust, and improve global magnetic field data. This monitoring by USGS is an integral component of the National Space Weather Strategy to protect against the harmful effects of magnetic storms. The Sun is always emitting a wind of electrically charged particles, but when a large sunspot emerges on the face of the Sun, there is an increased chance for abrupt emission of strong solar wind and a magnetic storm. An intense magnetic storm can affect many technological systems. In particular, storms can overload and interfere with the operation of electric-power grids on the Earth, sometimes causing blackouts.
In addition, an increase of $0.5 million in the Landslide Hazards Program would expand post-wildfire debris-flow hazard assessments and bolster the USGS capacity to respond to landslide crises.Energy and Minerals Resources, and Environmental Health
The FY 2017 budget request for Energy and Minerals Resources, and Environmental Health (EMEH) is $5 million above the FY 2016 enacted level, for a total of $99.5 million. This includes a $1.6 million increase to the Mineral Resources Program for identifying and evaluating new sources of critical minerals and for new science and tools to reduce the impacts of minerals extraction, production, and recycling on the global environment and human health. The Energy Resources Program’s proposed $1.4 million increase includes funds for unconventional oil and gas (UOG) research and assessments, evaluation of waters produced during UOG development, and assessments of undiscovered UOG on Alaska’s North Slope. It funds scientific data-gathering needed for other domestic assessments of shale and tight oil and gas, geothermal energy research to support land management decisions about alternative energy permitting on Federal lands, and the application of an ecosystem services approach to enhance resilience of coastal infrastructure and evaluate green infrastructure investments. These increases are partially offset by reductions to lower priority programs.
The increase includes an additional $3.1 million for Environmental Health research, with $1.3 million under the Contaminant Biology Program and $1.8 million under the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program. This research will assess potential biological effects of UOG on living organisms, including humans; study environmental contamination from spills and other releases of liquid and solid wastes from UOG development in West Virginia and North Dakota; and establish real-time water-quality monitoring along the northeast U.S. coast. These studies also will examine mercury and pesticide contamination in the Columbia River basin, and assess impacts of uranium mining in the Grand Canyon region. This research will inform decisions on new uranium mining in the Grand Canyon region.Core Science Systems
The FY 2017 budget request for Core Science Systems is $6.8 million above the FY2016 enacted level, for a total of $118.4 million. Of the increase, $4.9 million would fund elevation data acquisition within the National Geospatial Program. This includes a $1.5 million increase to modernize mapping and collect ifsar (interferometric synthetic aperture radar) elevation data in Alaska. Improved mapping products are urgently needed in Alaska for aircraft navigation, since weather conditions deteriorate quickly and pilots frequently need to fly using only their instruments and GPS. It also includes $2.4 million to acquire lidar data (measuring distance by illuminating a target with a laser and analyzing the reflected light) and enhance landscape-scale 3-D maps for the Nation. Accelerating national elevation data coverage will also enable decision making to manage infrastructure and construction, provide more accurate and cost effective application of chemicals in farming, help to develop energy resources, and support aviation safety and vehicle navigation. The proposed increase also provides $1 million to collect lidar data along the U.S. coast. These data help to understand and mitigate the effects of coastal erosion and storm surge and support management of the Chesapeake Bay. An additional increase of $1 million would complete the National Hydrography Database at a 1:24,000 scale for the conterminous 48 states, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. This achievement would enable full integration of hydrography and elevation data in support of water resource managers throughout the Nation. The overall increase for Core Science Systems also funds research addressing pollinators and drought response.Ecosystems
The FY 2017 USGS budget request for Ecosystems is $13.7 million above the FY 2016 enacted level for a total of $173.9 million. This includes a $4.9 million increase to the Environments Program for critical landscapes such as sage steppe and the Arctic. The increase for sage steppe supports the priority needs of managers to design conservation and management strategies for greater sage grouse; address changing fire regimes, drought and shifting climates; control the spread of invasive cheatgrass; and restore and manage the sage steppe landscape. The Arctic increase would fund research to inform communities and land managers about changes in the Arctic and how they affect the broader physical environment: altering stream flows, disrupting ocean currents and the fisheries that depend on them, changing ecosystems, and affecting the availability of resources. The Environments Program increase also funds research to support drought and wildfire response.
The Ecosystems budget request includes $3.2 million in new funding for the Fisheries Program to develop decision support tools for water ecology, to assess Great Lakes fisheries, and to process offshore samples that could provide an early warning for harmful algal blooms.
The budget increase for Ecosystems includes an additional $2.5 million under the Invasive Species Program for research on new and emerging invasive species of national concern and to develop and improve tools for early detection and control, such as advanced molecular detection of sea lamprey and other invasive species found at very low densities in the field.
The proposed Ecosystems increase also includes a $1.7 million increase through the Status and Trends Program for research to maintain native pollinators that help the Nation maintain its food supplies.Climate and Land-Use Change
The FY 2017 USGS budget provides an increase of $31.5 million over the FY 2016 enacted level for Climate and Land-Use Change (CLU) research, for a total of $171.4 million. This includes a $15.4 million increase to develop the Landsat 9 ground system to accelerate the satellite’s launch from 2023 to 2021 and to ensure access to the Nation’s remote sensing data. An increase of $2.2 million would enable access to Sentinel-2 satellite data from the European Space Agency, and an increase of $3 million would allow the development of the computing and online storage resources necessary to rapidly produce and widely disseminate a set of Landsat-based information products.
The CLU increase also provides an additional $4.2 million to better understand patterns and manage the effects of drought. This includes new tools to better manage water nationwide such as near real-time satellite based drought monitoring. Drought impacts on natural and agricultural systems that would be assessed include soil moisture, evapotranspiration rates, vegetation response, and other metrics. The research would help water managers identify the onset and severity of drought events and effectively allocate scarce water resources. The increase includes $1.8 million for new tools to improve water management nationwide and use remote sensing to support additional aspects of the National Water Census.
The budget includes a $1.5 million increase to establish a Great Lakes Climate Science Center to help increase and improve focus on the many climate-related natural resource challenges in the Great Lakes region and a $1.4 million increase would fund work with tribes on climate adaptation. In addition, $2.4 million would go to critical landscape studies in the Arctic to develop predictive models of changes to the environment from the conversion of ice and snow to water and to estimate glacier loss in Alaska and potential changes in freshwater input. A $500,000 increase would fund imagery datasets and analytical tools for improved coastal resource management and planning for resilient coastal landscapes and communities.
The proposed USGS budget is part of the President’s FY 2017 request of $13.4 billion for the Department of the Interior, reflecting his commitment to meet Federal trust responsibilities to Native Americans, conserve vital national landscapes across the Nation, support the next century of our public lands, and allow for responsible management of energy development on public lands and offshore areas. The Budget in Brief is online: www.doi.gov/budget and www.doi.gov/budget/2017/Hilites/toc.html.
The USGS National Map program is transitioning all of its GIS data download capabilities to its new TNM Download client during the week of February 15, 2016. The new launch page will help users easily find the variety of resources available to get National Map data, download GIS data, visualize and analyze data on the web, or access developer tools such as APIs and map services.
This is not a replacement for all the visualization capabilities in the current National Map Viewer, but rather an application and API to improve and simplify the data download experience. The National Map Viewer will remain available for web-based visualization and analysis of National Map data.
Usage of TNM Download Client combined with staged product files will provide faster, more reliable and larger quantities of data to the geospatial community. The Download Client has an associated API available to developers to take advantage in their own applications.
The National Map released several recent enhancements to the delivery of its data products and map services to include:
- Updated launch page to help navigate to the many data resources available from The National Map, including data, maps, applications, and ‘how to’ videos;
- New TNM Download Client;
- Java-based Download Manager;
- 24K large scale contours map service; and
- Modified dynamic layer control on all its vector web services.
TNM Download Client
The new TNM Download Client will replace the data download function in the older legacy TNM Viewer. It allows the user to easily filter by product, file format, and search for data over their area of interest. Product specific workflows have also been developed such as selecting a particular hydrologic unit and to give users more appropriate results. Several ‘How to Download Data’ tutorial videos (lessons 4a-4d) have been created to take advantage of the new capabilities.
Basic download steps
1) Zoom to your area of interest
2) Select the desired product and file formats
3) Click on the “Find Product’ button to get search results
4) You will then be presented with a .CSV file to directly download or add to a cart if you want additional products
5) You can order multiple National Map products from this client but it is easiest to go through the steps for each product line you want to order, one product at a time.
Download Manager is a Java-based application that runs on your local computer and enables download of multiple products without requiring the user to click each individual download link. If you require lots of data, export all the search results into a .CSV file and use the ‘Download Manager’ application for fast behind the scenes data retrieval while working on other activities.
Large Scale Contours are available
The contours created from The National Map US Topo program are now included in a dynamic contours map service. This new service has dynamic layers enabled to allow user-defined custom styling to be applied in Esri® clients.
Dynamic Style Control is enabled on vector map services
Users can take advantage of dynamic style control on The National Map vector web services. This feature enables users to change the color and line weight of our vectors to best meet their mapping and visualization needs, without having to download the actual dataset.
File GeoDatabase 9.3.1 format retired
In addition to these new enhancements, some of the existing file formats and capabilities will be retired over the next few months. File GeoDatabase 9.3.1 format will be retired in mid-February 2016 and the download function in The National Map (TNM) legacy viewer will be removed. Users will be directed to the new TNM Download Client.
To keep current with The National Map downloadable products and map services, visit The National Map Viewer launch page.
Questions or feedback regarding any of these changes can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Screen shot of download enhancements to lidar data availability visualization and file downloads.
Screen shot of lidar data downloads.