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Value of U.S. Mineral Production Decreased in 2015 with Lower Metal Prices

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 01/28/2016 - 14:20
Summary: In 2015, United States mines produced an estimated $78.3 billion of mineral raw materials—down 3percent from $80.8 billion in 2014, the U.S. Geological Survey announced today in its Mineral Commodity Summaries 2016.

Contact Information:

Steven Fortier ( Phone: 703-648-4920 ); Elizabeth Sangine ( Phone: 703-648-7720 ); Hannah Hamilton ( Phone: 703-648-4356 );



In 2015, United States mines produced an estimated $78.3 billion of mineral raw materials—down 3percent from $80.8 billion in 2014, the U.S. Geological Survey announced today in its Mineral Commodity Summaries 2016.

“Decision-makers and policy-makers in the private and public sectors rely on the Mineral Commodity Summaries and other USGS minerals information publications as unbiased sources of information to make business decisions and national policy,” said Steven M. Fortier, Director of the USGS National Minerals Information Center. 

Rare-earth elements (REEs) are used in the components of many devices used daily in our modern society, such as: the screens of smart phones, computers, and flat panel televisions; the motors of computer drives; batteries of hybrid and electric cars; and new generation light bulbs. Lanthanum-based catalysts are employed in petroleum refining. Large wind turbines use generators that contain strong permanent magnets composed of neodymium-iron-boron. Photographs used with permission from PHOTOS.com.

This annual report from the USGS is the earliest comprehensive source of 2015 mineral production data for the world. It includes statistics on about 90 mineral commodities that are essential to the U.S. economy and national security, and addresses events, trends, and issues in the domestic and international minerals industries. Industries consuming such processed non-fuel mineral materials—such as cement, steel, brick, and fertilizer, et cetera—added $2.49 trillion or 14 percent to the total U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

In 2015, the U.S. was 100 percent import reliant on 19 mineral commodities, including rare earths, manganese, and bauxite, which are among a suite of materials often designated as “critical” or “strategic” because they are essential to the economy and their supply may be disrupted. Though the U.S. was also 100 percent import reliant on 19 mineral commodities in 2014, this number has risen from just 7 commodities in 1978.

“This dependence on foreign sources of critical minerals illustrates both the interdependency of the global community and a growing concern about the adequacy of mineral resources supplies for future generations.  Will our children’s children have the resources they need to live the lives that we all want?” asked Larry Meinert, MRP program coordinator.

A reduction in construction activity began with the 2008-09 recession and continued through 2011. However, construction spending continued to increase in 2015—more than 10 percent compared to 2014, which benefitted the industrial minerals and aggregates sectors.

Production of 14 mineral commodities was worth more than $1 billion each in the United States in 2015, the same as in 2014. The estimated value of U.S. industrial minerals  production in 2015 was $51.7 billion, 4 percent more than that of 2014.

Declining demand for metals—especially in China, reduced investment demand, and increase global inventories resulted in decreasing prices and production for most metals.  In fact, several U.S. metal mines idled in 2015, including the only U.S. rare earth mine at Mountain Pass, California. Rare earths are vital components in modern technologies like smart phones, light-emitting-diode (LED) lights, and flat screen televisions, as well as clean energy and defense technologies.

The estimated value of U.S. metal mine production in 2015 was $26.6 billion, 15 percent less than that of 2014. These raw materials and domestically recycled materials were used to process mineral materials worth $630 billion, a 4 percent decrease from $659 billion in 2014. 

In 2015, 14 states each produced more than $2 billion worth of nonfuel mineral commodities. These states were, in descending order of value—Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, California, Alaska, Utah, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Colorado, Wyoming, and Illinois. Wisconsin and Illinois are new to the list in 2015.

The USGS Mineral Resources Program delivers unbiased science and information to understand mineral resource potential, production, consumption, and how minerals interact with the environment. The USGS National Minerals Information Center collects, analyzes, and disseminates current information on the supply of and the demand for minerals and materials in the United States and about 180 other countries. This information is essential in planning for and mitigating impacts of potential disruptions to mineral commodity supply due to both natural hazard and man-made events.

The USGS report Mineral Commodity Summaries 2016 is available online (http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals). Hardcopies will be available later in the year from the Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents. For ordering information, please call (202) 512-1800 or (866) 512-1800 or go online (http://bookstore.gpo.gov). 

For more information on this report and individual mineral commodities, please visit the USGS National Minerals Information Center (http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals).  To keep up-to-date on USGS mineral research, follow us on Twitter (http://twitter.com/usgsminerals).

New Heartland Maps for the New Year

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 01/26/2016 - 09:30
Summary: New US Topo maps for Iowa and Kansas are now available in the USGS Store for free download. The new maps of these Midwestern states feature the inclusion of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) road data. Updated US Topo maps for Iowa and Kansas released; add Census Bureau road data and PLSS

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Larry Moore ( Phone: 303-202-4019 );



New US Topo maps for Iowa and Kansas are now available in the USGS Store for free download. The new maps of these Midwestern states feature the inclusion of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) road data.

"The addition of TIGER’s roads layer into the US Topo maps is a great example of how data from one agency can benefit another agency,” said Timothy Trainor, Chief, Geography Division, U.S. Census Bureau. “The Census Bureau and the USGS have a long history of collaboration and sharing. This is another win for the American public."

The USGS recently released Wisconsin US Topo maps which were the first to feature TIGER data.

Another important addition to the new US Topo maps for Iowa and Kansas is the inclusion of Public Land Survey System data. PLSS is a way of subdividing and describing land in the US. All lands in the public domain are subject to subdivision by this rectangular system of surveys, which is regulated by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management.

Other improvements include the insertion of “crowdsourced” trail data from the International Mountain Bike Association, and most recently, trail data from the U.S. Forest Service.

The US Topo map improvement program has entered its third, three-year cycle of revising and updating digital US Topo quadrangles. These new US Topo maps replace the second edition US Topo maps and are available for no-cost file download from The National Map, the USGS Map Locator & Downloader website , and several other USGS applications.

The TIGER database is provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and was created before the 1990 census to provide over a million unique maps sheets to census enumerators. The TIGER was the basis for the first coast-to-coast digital map to modernize the once-a-decade count. Since 1990, TIGER has evolved into a dynamic mapping system that helped catapult the growth of the geographic information system industry and improve Census Bureau data products.

The TIGER database contains all geographic features — such as roads, railroads, rivers, and legal and statistical geographic boundaries — needed to support the Census Bureau’s data collection and dissemination programs. The TIGER/Line Shapefiles are constantly improving, updated annually, and available for free download.

TIGER’s roads layer includes 6.3 million miles of roads. The original TIGER GIS vector data are available for free download from the TIGER products page. TIGER data are public domain, so using these road data on US Topo removes a previous use restriction from this USGS map product

To compare change over time, scans of legacy USGS topo maps, some dating back to the late 1800s, can be downloaded from the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection.

For more information on US Topo maps: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/.

Updated 2016 version of the Des Moines SE US Topo quadrangle with orthoimage turned on. (1:24,000 scale)

 

Updated 2016 version of the Des Moines SE US Topo quadrangle with orthoimage turned off to better see the improved road network. (1:24,000 scale)

 

 

Scan of the 1905 legacy topographic map quadrangle of the greater Des Moines area from the USGS Historic Topographic Map Collection.

 

New Invasive Annual Grass Book Addresses Critical Questions for the Western U.S.

USGS Newsroom Technical - Tue, 01/26/2016 - 08:46
Summary: Cheatgrass in the Santa Rosa Range, Nevada. Photographer credit: Photo courtesy of Nolan Preece.  

Contact Information:

Susan Kemp, USGS ( Phone: 541-750-1047 ); Cass Cairns, USFS ( Phone: 970-498-1370 );



Cheatgrass in the Santa Rosa Range, Nevada. Photographer credit: Photo courtesy of Nolan Preece.

 

^_BOISE, Idaho — Bromus species – such as cheatgrass – are exotic annual grasses that have become the dominant annual grasses in the western hemisphere. Their spread and impacts across the western U.S. continue despite the many attempts by land managers to control these species. A new book edited by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service and Colorado State University was released today and answers critical research, planning and management questions about these species.

Sagebrush habitat is essential for the survival of the greater sage-grouse and other wildlife species as well as for economic activities, such as ranching and recreation.  The Department of Interior Secretarial Order 3336 on Rangeland Fire Prevention, Management and Restoration directly addresses the need for additional science and research to unlock the key to controlling invasive exotic Bromus grasses and developing tools to protect and support resistant and resilient sagebrush landscapes in the United States.

“There are nearly 150 species of Bromus globally,” said Matthew Germino, USGS ecologist and lead editor of the new book. “Despite extensive research on the grass species that have invaded the western U.S., land managers still face challenges in controlling the spread and impact of these grasses across the landscape.”

The book titled “Exotic Brome-Grasses in Arid and Semiarid Ecosystems of the Western U.S.: Causes, Consequences, and Management Implications,” synthesizes available literature on the biology, ecology, sociology and economics of Bromus grasses to develop a more complete picture of the factors that influence their invasiveness, impacts and management in the western U.S.

The synthesis helps to answer questions on:

  • The effects of environmental factors on Bromus species distributions
  • Arid and semiarid ecosystem attributes and processes that influence resistance to invasion by Bromus
  • Traits of Bromus species that contribute to their invasiveness
  • Impacts of Bromus invasions on ecosystems
  • Effects of pathogens on Bromus invasions and their potential for biocontrol
  • Effects of land uses on Bromus invasions
  • Management options for exotic annual Bromus and their application
  • Socioeconomic drivers and patterns of human response to Bromus invasion

“The risks and problems associated with Bromus have been known in the U.S. for decades, but much of the past research was done to answer questions at local scales and focused on only a few causal factors,” said Jeanne Chambers, USFS research ecologist with the Rocky Mountain Research Station and co-editor. “Today, Bromus grass impacts are large scale and influenced by many interacting factors requiring a more holistic approach.”

The book is the result of funding provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Research, Extension, and Education Network – or REEnet – which brought together a diverse range of public agency and university specialists from around the United States to generate and refine ideas on Bromus grasses. Lessons learned from this synthesis can be used to address impacts of species like cheatgrass on the sagebrush-steppe, a habitat that supports over 350 wildlife species, including greater sage-grouse.

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.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.

The Rocky Mountain Research Station is one of five regional units that make up the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development organization – the most extensive natural resources research organization in the world. The Station maintains 12 field laboratories throughout a 12-state territory encompassing the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and parts of the Great Plains, and administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges, and watersheds, while maintaining long-term databases for these areas. RMRS research is broken into eight science program areas that serve the Forest Service as well as other federal and state agencies, international organizations, private groups and individuals. To find out more about the RMRS go to www.fs.fed.us/rmrs. You can also follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/usfs_rmrs

Invasive Amphibian Fungus Could Threaten US Salamander Populations

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 01/20/2016 - 10:00
Summary: LAUREL, Md. — A deadly fungus causing population crashes in wild European salamanders could emerge in the United States and threaten already declining amphibians here, according to a report released today by the U.S. Geological Survey USGS Identifies Research and Management Actions

Contact Information:

Catherine Puckett ( Phone: 352-377-2469 ); Hannah Hamilton ( Phone: 703-648-4356 );



The eft stage of a red-spotted newt in Walker County, Georgia (Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area). Photo credit: Alan Cressler, USGS.

 

LAUREL, Md. — A deadly fungus causing population crashes in wild European salamanders could emerge in the United States and threaten already declining amphibians here, according to a report released today by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Department of the Interior is working proactively to protect the nation’s amphibians.  The USGS is report released today highlights cooperative research and management efforts needed to develop and implement effective pre-invasion and post-invasion disease-management strategies if Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) enters and affects salamanders within the United States. Last week the United States Fish and Wildlife Service published a rule listing 201 salamander species as injurious under the Lacey Act, which will reduce the likelihood of introduction of Bsal into the country.

Although Bsal has not yet been found in wild U.S. salamander populations, scientists caution it is likely to emerge here because of the popularity of captive salamanders as household pets, in classrooms and in zoos; the captive amphibian trade is a known source of salamanders afflicted with the fungus.

Amphibians are the most endangered groups of vertebrates worldwide, with another fungus closely related to Bsal (Bd) contributing to amphibian die-offs and extinctions global over the last two decades. 

“Based on the kinds of species affected and the fact that the United States has the highest salamander diversity in the world, this new pathogen is a major threat with the potential to exacerbate already severe amphibian declines,” said Evan Grant, a USGS wildlife biologist and lead author of the USGS report. “We have the unusual opportunity to develop and apply preventative management actions in advance.”

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.

The USGS brought together scientists and managers from federal and state agencies that oversee resource conservation and management to identify research needs and management responses before Bsal arrives and becomes entrenched in the country. USGS, the USFWS, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Defense, National Park Service, zoos, and U.S. and international universities participated in the Bsal workshop.

Key findings in the report include:

  • Bsal is highly likely to emerge in U.S. populations of wild salamanders through imports of potentially infected salamanders.
  • Management actions targeted at Bsal containment after arrival in the United States may be relatively ineffective in reducing its spread.
  • A coordinated response, including rapid information sharing, is necessary to plan and respond to this potential crisis.
  • Early detection of Bsal at key amphibian import locations, in high-risk wild populations, and in field-collected samples is necessary to quickly and effectively implement management responses.

“The increasing pace of global commerce and emergence of new infectious diseases put vulnerable native wildlife populations at risk for extinction,” said Grant. “Managing disease threats to the 191 species of U.S. salamanders is essential for the global conservation of salamanders.”

Grant noted that the process by which Bsal research and management needs were identified could be adapted for future infectious disease threats to wildlife.

The workshop and Open-File Report were supported by the USGS Amphibian Monitoring and Research Initiative – or ARMI – and the USGS Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis. ARMI is a national program focusing on amphibian research to stop or reverse the worldwide decline in amphibian populations from habitat change to disease.

Decades of Bat Observations Reveal Uptick in New Causes of Mass Mortality

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 01/19/2016 - 10:30
Summary: FORT COLLINS, Colorado – Reports of bat deaths worldwide due to human causes largely unique to the 21st century are markedly rising, according to a new USGS-led analysis published in Mammal Review

Contact Information:

Kristin White ( Phone: 970-226-9223 ); Heidi Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 ); Catherine Puckett ( Phone: 352-377-2469 );



Additional Contacts:  David Hayman, Massey University, +64-06-356-9099 ext. 83047, D.T.S.Hayman@massey.ac.nz; Raina Plowright, Montana State University, 406-994-2939, raina.plowright@montana.edu; and Daniel Streicker, University of Glasgow, 44 (0) 141 330 663, daniel.streicker@glasgow.ac.uk

FORT COLLINS, Colorado – Reports of bat deaths worldwide due to human causes largely unique to the 21st century are markedly rising, according to a new USGS-led analysis published in Mammal Review.

Collisions with wind turbines worldwide and the disease white-nose syndrome in North America lead the reported causes of mass death in bats since the onset of the 21st century. These new threats now surpass all prior known causes of bat mortality, natural or attributed to humans.

A comprehensive study reveals trends in the occurrence and causes of multiple mortality events in bats as reported globally for the past 200 years, shedding new light on the possible factors underlying population declines.

“Many of the 1,300 species of bats on Earth are already considered threatened or declining. Bats require high survival to ensure stable or growing populations," said Tom O’Shea, a USGS emeritus research scientist and the study’s lead author. “The new trends in reported human-related mortality may not be sustainable.”

Bats are long-lived, slow-breeding mammals that play vital roles in most of Earth’s ecosystems. Bats are important pollinators and seed dispersers in tropical regions, and serve as the main predators of night flying insects in most parts of the world. Insect-eating bats are estimated to save farmers billions of dollars each year by providing natural pest control.

The researchers combed the scientific literature dating from 1790 to 2015 in search of annual mortality events involving more than 10 bats per event. They then divided these ‘multiple mortality events’ into nine different categories, spanning a variety of both natural and human causes. In the end, they found and categorized a total of 1,180 mortality events from all over the world, representing more than 200 years of recorded history.

Prior to the year 2000, intentional killing by humans caused the greatest proportion of mortality events in bats globally; the reasons varied with region, but bats were hunted for human consumption, killed as pests, to control vampire bats, and to protect fruit crops. Although the proportion of intentional killing reports declined in recent times, such acts continue in some parts of the world.

Since the dawn of the 21st century, however, collisions with wind turbines worldwide and white-nose syndrome in North America are the primary reported causes of mass mortality in bats. In additions, storms, floods, drought, and other weather-related factors also historically caused mass mortality, and could increase in the future due to climate change.

Surprisingly, the authors did not find convincing evidence that bats regularly die in large proportion due to infectious diseases caused by viruses or bacteria.  This finding comes at a time when increasing evidence points to bats as natural reservoirs of several viruses that cause disease in humans. Despite often being more social than other animals, bats may somehow avoid deaths from diseases that sweep through dense populations.

The authors conclude that bats globally could benefit from policy, education, and conservation actions targeting human-caused mortality. “Determining the most important causes of bat mortality is a first step toward trying to reduce our impact on their populations,” said David Hayman, another author of the study and senior lecturer at Massey University in New Zealand.

More information about this study and additional bat research is available online at the USGS Fort Collins Science Center, Massey University, Montana State University, and University of Glasgow.

Bats in a Texas Evening Sky — Insect-eating Brazilian Free-Tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) provide a great pest-control service to agriculture and natural ecosystems. Photo credit: Paul Cryan, USGS.

 

Brown Bats with White Nose Syndrome — Little brown bats in a New York hibernation cave. Note that most of the bats exhibit fungal growth on their muzzles. Photo credit: Nancy Heaslip, New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

 

Wind Turbines — Two wind turbines from the side on a clear day. Photo credit: Paul Cryan, USGS.

Hoary Bat — A hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) roosting on the branch of a tree. About half of all bat fatalities documented in North America involve hoary bats, a migratory species that roosts in the foliage of trees. Photo credit: Paul Cryan, USGS.

 

Long Nosed Bat —  A long-nosed bat covered with pollen, probably from a cactus flower. Photo credit: Ami Pate, National Park Service.

Biodiversity Critical to Maintaining Healthy Ecosystems

USGS Newsroom - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 12:12
Summary: Researchers have found clear evidence that biological communities rich in species are substantially healthier and more productive than those depleted of species.

Contact Information:

Jim Grace ( Phone: 337-298-1671 ); Vic Hines ( Phone: 813-855-3125 );



Researchers have found clear evidence that biological communities rich in species are substantially healthier and more productive than those depleted of species.

Using new scientific techniques, U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist Jim Grace and a group of international scientists have resolved a long-standing debate about   whether species diversity is necessary for a healthy ecosystem.

Scientists have long hypothesized that biodiversity is of critical importance to the stability of natural ecosystems and their abilities to provide positive benefits such as oxygen production, soil genesis, and water detoxification to plant and animal communities, as well as to human society. In fact, because this assumption is intuitively true to the general public, many of the efforts of conservation agencies around the world are driven by the assumption that this hypothesis is scientifically proven. Although theoretical studies have supported this claim, scientists have struggled for the past half-century to clearly isolate such an effect in the real world. This new study does just that.

“This study shows that you cannot have sustainable, productive ecosystems without maintaining biodiversity in the landscape,” said Grace.

The scientists used data collected for this research by a global consortium, the Nutrient Network, from more than a thousand grassland plots spanning five continents. Using recent advances in analytical methods, the group was able to isolate the biodiversity effect from the effects of other processes, including processes that can reduce diversity., Using these data with “integrative modeling”--integrating the predictions from multiple theories into a single model—scientists detected the clear signals of numerous underlying mechanisms linking the health and productivity of ecosystems with species richness.

“The ability to explain the diversity in the number of species is tremendously important for potential conservation applications,” said Grace. “The new type of analysis we developed can predict how both specific management actions (such as reduction of plant material through mowing or increase in soil fertility through fertilization), as well as shifts in climate conditions, may alter both productivity and the number of species.”

According to Debra Willard, Coordinator for the USGS Climate Research & Development Program, “These results suggest that if climate change leads to reduced species or genetic diversity, which is a real possibility, that then could lead to a reduced capacity for ecosystems to respond to additional stresses.”

As an indication of the global awareness of this issue, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services was recently created to help policy-makers understand and address problems stemming from the global loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems.

The article, “Integrative modeling reveals mechanisms linking productivity and plant species richness,” is available online in the journal Nature. 

Asian Carp Eggs Remain in Suspension at Lower Velocities than Previously Thought

USGS Newsroom Technical - Thu, 01/14/2016 - 14:23
Summary: Laboratory experiments in flowing water using synthetic surrogate Silver Carp eggs demonstrate egg suspension at lower velocities than previously thought, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study. The drift of synthetic eggs at a range of flows was evaluated to provide insight into both suspension of water-hardened Silver Carp eggs and the potential interaction of eggs with the bottom of a river. New information on the suspension of Asian carp eggs using synthetic surrogate eggs

Contact Information:

Jennifer LaVista ( Phone: 303-202-4764 ); Tatiana Garcia ( Phone: 217-328-9753 );



Laboratory experiments in flowing water using synthetic surrogate Silver Carp eggs demonstrate egg suspension at lower velocities than previously thought, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study. The drift of synthetic eggs at a range of flows was evaluated to provide insight into both suspension of water-hardened Silver Carp eggs and the potential interaction of eggs with the bottom of a river.

Since Asian carp eggs must stay suspended in rivers to survive to hatching, it is important to understand what flows cause them to settle to the bottom. These critical flow conditions help scientists to determine which rivers may be suitable for Asian carp reproduction. Results are published in the journal PLOS ONE. 

Scientists with University of Illinois and the USGS recently studied the suspension, transport and settling of Silver Carp eggs using synthetic surrogates at the Ven Te Chow Hydrosystems Laboratory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The researchers found that 65 percent of the eggs were in suspension at mean velocities as low as 0.07 meters per second, considerably lower than previously thought (0.15 to 0.9 meters per second). If eggs are staying in suspension at these small velocities, then survival rates would be higher than previously expected in low flow systems. In addition, dimensionless ratios between turbulence and egg sinking rate were calculated for different flow conditions. These ratios can be used for first order assessment of egg suspension together with observed egg suspension mode from laboratory experiments. Results provide more information on egg suspension (i.e., 50 percent of eggs in suspension) than a mean velocity threshold.  

Tatiana Garcia, USGS research hydrologist and lead author of the paper, performed experiments in moving water in a temperature-controlled re-circulatory flume with a sediment bed. Styrene beads were used as synthetic surrogate eggs to mimic the physical properties of water-hardened Silver Carp eggs. Egg suspension and drifting behavior of synthetic eggs was evaluated under different flow conditions and bed configurations.

Synthetic surrogate water-hardened Silver Carp Eggs settled on top of a sediment bed. Laboratory experiments in flowing water demonstrate egg suspension at lower velocities than previously thought. The drift of synthetic eggs at a range of flows was evaluated to provide insight into both suspension of water-hardened Silver Carp eggs and the potential interaction of eggs with the bottom of a river. Photo credit: Tatiana Garcia, USGS.



Mosaic of pictures of synthetic Silver Carp eggs taken at different flow conditions for two cases: bed with bedforms (left) and relatively flat bed (right). Laboratory experiments in flowing water demonstrate egg suspension at lower velocities than previously thought. The drift of synthetic eggs at a range of flows was evaluated to provide insight into both suspension of water-hardened Silver Carp eggs and the potential interaction of eggs with the bottom of a river. Credit: Tatiana Garcia, USGS.

Manmade Mercury Emissions Decline 30 Percent from 1990-2010

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 01/13/2016 - 10:00
Summary: Between 1990 and 2010, global mercury emissions from manmade sources declined 30 percent, according to a new analysis by Harvard University, Peking University, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, and the University of Alberta. These results challenge long-standing assumptions about mercury emission trends. Results show local and regional efforts can have significant effects on atmospheric mercury

Contact Information:

David  Krabbenhoft ( Phone: 608-821-3843 ); Alex Demas ( Phone: 571-335-6535 );



Between 1990 and 2010, global mercury emissions from manmade sources declined 30 percent, according to a new analysis by Harvard University, Peking University, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, and the University of Alberta. These results challenge long-standing assumptions about mercury emission trends.

Mercury is a metallic element that poses environmental health risks to both wildlife and humans when converted to methylmercury in ecosystems.  It can be converted into gaseous emissions during various industrial activities, as well as natural processes like volcanic eruptions.

“For years, mercury researchers have been unable to explain the apparent conundrum between declining air concentrations and rising emission estimates,” said lead author Yanxu Zhang from Harvard University. “Our work is the first detailed, mechanistic analysis to explain the declining atmospheric mercury trend.”

The observed reduction in atmospheric mercury was most pronounced over North America and Europe, where several factors have contributed to the observed declines in atmospheric mercury concentrations: 

  1. Mercury has been gradually phased out of many commercial products.
  2. Controls were put in place on coal-fired power plants that removed naturally occurring mercury from the coal being burned.
  3. Many power plants have switched to natural gas and stopped burning coal entirely, further reducing mercury emissions.

Finally, at the same time, efforts to combat acid rain resulted in controls being put in place on power plants to reduce nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions. This had the unintended benefit of also reducing mercury emissions.

“Previously, most mercury researchers subscribed to the notion that the ‘global mercury’ problem was largely manifested by a shared global emission inventory,” said USGS scientist David Krabbenhoft, one of the study’s co-authors. “However, our research shows that local and regional efforts to reduce mercury emissions matter significantly. This is great news for focused efforts on reducing exposure of fish, wildlife and humans to toxic mercury.”

The larger-than-anticipated role of local and regional efforts on global mercury emissions explains how increases in emissions in one area can be offset by decreases in other areas. Thus, while Asian mercury emissions increased between 1990 and 2010, European and North American emission reductions during the same time were enough to more than offset the Asian increases.

“This is important for policy and decision-makers, as well as natural resource managers, because, as our results show, their actions can have tangible effects on mercury emissions, even at the local level,” said study co-author Vincent St. Louis with the University of Alberta.

The study is entitled “Observed decrease in atmospheric mercury explained by global decline in anthropogenic emissions,” and is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more information about the study.

The USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program provides 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. As part of that research, USGS provides information on mercury sources; mercury cycling in the atmosphere, land surface, lakes, streams and oceans; and bioaccumulation and toxicity of mercury. This information helps land and resource managers understand and reduce mercury hazards to people and wildlife.

First Ever Digital Geologic Map of Alaska Published

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 01/05/2016 - 14:25
Summary: ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A new digital geologic map of Alaska is being released today providing land users, managers and scientists geologic information for the evaluation of land use in relation to resource extraction, conservation, natural hazards and recreation. 

Contact Information:

Frederic Wilson ( Phone: 907-786-7448 ); Paul  Laustsen ( Phone: 650-329-4046 );



ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A new digital geologic map of Alaska is being released today providing land users, managers and scientists geologic information for the evaluation of land use in relation to resource extraction, conservation, natural hazards and recreation. 

The map gives visual context to the abundant mineral and energy resources found throughout the state in a beautifully detailed and accessible format.

“I am pleased that Alaska now has a state-wide digital map detailing surface geologic features of this vast region of the United States that is difficult to access,” said Suzette Kimball, USGS newly-confirmed director. “This geologic map provides important information for the mineral and energy industries for exploration and remediation strategies. It will enable resource managers and land management agencies to evaluate resources and land use, and to prepare for natural hazards, such as earthquakes.” 

“The data contained in this digital map will be invaluable,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “It is a great resource and especially enhances the capacity for science-informed decision making for natural and cultural resources, interpretive programs, and visitor safety.”

“A better understanding of Alaska’s geology is vital to our state’s future. This new map makes a real contribution to our state, from the scientific work it embodies to the responsible resource production it may facilitate. Projects like this one underscore the important mission of the U.S. Geological Survey, and I’m thankful to them for completing it,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

This map is a completely new compilation, carrying the distinction of being the first 100 percent digital statewide geologic map of Alaska. It reflects the changes in our modern understanding of geology as it builds on the past. More than 750 references were used in creating the map, some as old as 1908 and others as new as 2015. As a digital map, it has multiple associated databases that allow creation of a variety of derivative maps and other products. 

“This work is an important synthesis that will both increase public access to critical information and enhance the fundamental understanding of Alaska's history, natural resources and environment,” said Mark Myers, Commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources. “I applaud the collaborative nature of this effort, including the input provided by the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, which will be useful for natural disaster preparation, resource development, land use planning and management, infrastructure and urban planning and management, education, and scientific research.”

Geologists and resource managers alike can utilize this latest geologic map of Alaska, and a lay person can enjoy the colorful patterns on the map showing the state’s geologic past and present.

More than other areas of the United States, Alaska reflects a wide range of past and current geologic environments and processes. The map sheds light on the geologic past and present. Today, geologic processes are still very important in Alaska with many active volcanoes, frequent earthquakes, receding and advancing glaciers and visible climate impacts. 

“This map is the continuation of a long line of USGS maps of Alaska, reflecting ever increasing knowledge of the geology of the state,” said Frederic Wilson, USGS research geologist and lead author of the new map. “In the past, starting in 1904, geologic maps of Alaska were revised once a generation; this latest edition reflects major new mapping efforts in Alaska by the USGS and the Alaska state survey, as well as a revolution in the science of geology through the paradigm shift to plate tectonics, and the development of digital methods. Completion of this map celebrates the 200th anniversary of world's first geologic map by William Smith of England in 1815.” 

The Alaska Geologic Map shows the generalized geology of the state, each color representing a different type or age of rock. This map detail, of the Anchorage area, shows the city spread out on a plain of loose glacial deposits shown in yellow, and the bedrock making up the hillsides of Anchorage shown in green and brown. The rocks shown in green, called the Valdez Group, are sedimentary rocks formed in a trench 65 to 75 million years ago from thousands of undersea debris flows similar to the modern Aleutian trench where oceanic crust dives under continental crust (a subduction zone). The rocks shown in brown on the map are a chaotic mix of rock types called the McHugh Complex that were also formed about the same time, adjacent to this ancient subduction zone. Some time after deposition of the Valdez Group, hot fluids formed gold-bearing quartz veins; the veins were mined starting in the 1890's. The rocks were pushed up, and attached (accreted) to North America through plate tectonic forces in the past 65 million years. The dotted line passing through the east side of Anchorage is the approximate trace of the Border Ranges Fault system, the boundary between the accreted rocks and the rest of the continent.

Sea Lamprey Mating Pheromone Registered by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as First Vertebrate Pheromone Biopesticide

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 01/04/2016 - 15:11
Summary: Ann Arbor, MI – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency registered a sea lamprey mating pheromone, 3kPZS, as the first ever vertebrate pheromone biopesticide in late December, 2015. Like an alluring perfume, the mating pheromone is a scent released by male sea lampreys to lure females onto nesting sites. Research and development of the mating pheromone was funded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, with additional support from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, in collaboration with federal government, university, and private industry partners.

Contact Information:

Dr. Marc Gaden, GLFC ( Phone: 734-417-8012 ); Marisa Lubeck, USGS ( Phone: 303-202-4765 );



Ann Arbor, MI – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency registered a sea lamprey mating pheromone, 3kPZS, as the first ever vertebrate pheromone biopesticide in late December, 2015. Like an alluring perfume, the mating pheromone is a scent released by male sea lampreys to lure females onto nesting sites. Research and development of the mating pheromone was funded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, with additional support from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, in collaboration with federal government, university, and private industry partners.

Parasitic mouth of the invasive sea lamprey. Photo credit: Andrea Miehls, USGS.

Since the 1990s, scientists have been researching the use of pheromones – natural odors used by sea lampreys to communicate – to manipulate sea lamprey behaviors. The newly registered mating pheromone has been used as bait in traps that collect and remove adult sea lampreys before they have a chance to spawn. Other sea lamprey pheromones are also being explored for use in sea lamprey control as attractants and repellents. Although “pesticide” may be part of the name, many biopesticides – such as the sea lamprey mating pheromone – naturally occur in the environment and are extremely potent, but not lethal, substances.

“The Great Lakes Fishery Commission is very excited about this accomplishment,” said Dr. Robert Hecky, chair of the commission. “U.S. EPA registration of the sea lamprey mating pheromone opens the door for use of the pheromone in the commission’s sea lamprey control program, which protects Great Lakes fisheries from destruction caused by invasive sea lampreys.” Dr. Hecky also emphasized the critical role of partners. “This achievement has been many years in the making and could not have occurred without the excellent work of our collaborators at the U.S. Geological Survey, Michigan State University, and Bridge Organics Company.”

Dr. Suzette Kimball, USGS director, praised registration of the sea lamprey mating pheromone as “a milestone for control of invasive species and protection of natural biodiversity.” She further emphasized the significance of this event saying, “Registration is the culmination of great leadership and innovation among the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the USGS, and our university and private-sector partners. Development of the sea lamprey mating pheromone is exactly the type of cuttingedge research that places each partner at the forefront of science.”

The commission also lauded the U.S. EPA’s leadership and noted that this action provides a path for additional chemosensory compounds to be registered as a means to control other vertebrate species. Moreover, this registration marks the first joint review with Canada of a biopesticide through the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency is in the process of registering the mating pheromone for use in Canada.

Since invading the Great Lakes in the 1800s and early 1900s, sea lampreys – parasitic, jawless vertebrates that feed on the blood and body fluids of other fish – have caused enormous ecological and economic damage. To combat this menace, the commission coordinates an integrated sea lamprey control program implemented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Fisheries and Oceans Canada that combines lampricides, barriers, and traps. The control program is remarkably successful: sea lamprey populations in most areas of the Great Lakes have been reduced by 90 percent of their historical highs.

“Our research has shown that the sea lamprey mating pheromone holds great promise for the sea lamprey control program,” explained Dr. Weiming Li, professor at Michigan State University through the commission’s Partnership for Ecosystem Research and Management. “With a large-scale field trial, we demonstrated that pheromone baits can increase trapping efficiencies by up to 53 percent and baited traps can capture up to two times the sea lampreys that un-baited traps can.” While initial trials were completed with pheromone derived from live male sea lampreys, the researchers also discovered the molecular structure of the mating pheromone and contracted with Bridge Organics, a private company in Michigan, to manufacture a synthetic version.

Invasive sea lamprey prey on commercially important fish species such as lake trout, living off of the blood and body fluids of adult fish. It is one of many fish species that USGS scientists study from the USGS Research Vessel Muskie. These lamprey belong to the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission. Photo credit: Marisa Lubeck, USGS.

Bridge Organics was a key partner in both the development of the synthesized mating pheromone and the U.S. EPA registration process. Like using a blueprint to construct a high-tech building, Bridge Organics used the molecular structure provided by the scientists to construct the exact pheromone molecule from scratch. “When the commission contacted us to synthesize the sea lamprey mating pheromone, we were excited by the scientific challenge,” recalled Dr. Ed Hessler, president of Bridge Organics. “Our company is proud to have developed the chemistry to synthesize the mating pheromone and to have coordinated testing of the compound during the registration process.”

The U.S. EPA registration covers both the synthesized male mating pheromone as well as the mixture of synthesized pheromone and solvents used in field applications. The U.S. FWS holds the registration for 3kPZS and is the entity licensed to apply this in the field when deemed appropriate. The mating pheromone is classified as a biopesticide, a designation that includes any naturally occurring substance that controls pests. Other registered biopesticides include the pheromone disparlure, which is used to detect and control small infestations of gypsy moths. Registration of the sea lamprey mating pheromone is the first for a vertebrate biopesticide.

Once registered in both the United States and Canada, the sea lamprey mating pheromone can be used to help control invasive sea lampreys in U.S. and Canadian waters throughout the Great Lakes. With each additional tool in the sea lamprey control arsenal, the commission improves its ability to protect the $7 billion fishery.

Badger State Maps Put TIGER in the Tank

USGS Newsroom - Tue, 12/29/2015 - 09:00
Summary: The USGS US Topo map program has entered its third, three-year cycle of revising and updating the digital US Topo maps Updated US Topo maps for Wisconsin add Census Bureau road data

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Larry  Moore ( Phone: 303-202-4019 );



The USGS US Topo map program has entered its third, three-year cycle of revising and updating the digital US Topo maps. To start this new cycle, the USGS National Geospatial Program is excited to announce the inclusion of U.S. Census Bureau’s Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) roads data for the new US Topo maps, starting with the state of Wisconsin.

"The addition of TIGER’s roads layer into the US Topo maps is a great example of how data from one agency can benefit another agency,” said Timothy Trainor, Chief, Geography Division, U.S. Census Bureau. “The Census Bureau and the USGS have a long history of collaboration and sharing. This is another win for the American public."

The TIGER database is provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and was created before the 1990 census to provide over a million unique maps sheets to census enumerators. The TIGER was the basis for the first coast-to-coast digital map to modernize the once-a-decade count. Since 1990, TIGER has evolved into a dynamic mapping system that helped catapult the growth of the geographic information system industry and improve Census Bureau data products.

The TIGER database contains all geographic features — such as roads, railroads, rivers, and legal and statistical geographic boundaries — needed to support the Census Bureau’s data collection and dissemination programs. The TIGER/Line Shapefiles are constantly improving, updated annually, and available for free download.

TIGER’s roads layer includes 6.3 million miles of roads. The original TIGER GIS vector data are available for free download from the TIGER products page. TIGER data are public domain, so using these road data on US Topo removes a previous use restriction from this USGS map product

Other improvements to the new Wisconsin US Topo maps include the addition of the “crowdsourced” trail data from the International Mountain Bike Association, increased parcel land data (PLSS), and most recently, trail data from the U.S. Forest Service.

Additionally, segments of The Ice Age Trail, one of 11 National Scenic Trails, will continue to be featured on select US Topo maps. The USGS partnered with the National Park Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Ice Age Trail Alliance to incorporate the Ice Age Trail onto Wisconsin's maps. The NPS is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

These new US Topo maps replace the second edition US Topo maps and are available for no-cost file download from The National Map, the USGS Map Locator & Downloader website , and several other USGS applications.

To compare change over time, scans of legacy USGS topo maps, some dating back to the late 1800s, can be downloaded from the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection.

For more information on US Topo maps: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/.

Updated 2015 version of the Madison West US Topo quadrangle with orthoimage turned on. (1:24,000 scale) (high resolution image 1.2 MB) Updated 2015 version of the Madison West US Topo quadrangle with orthoimage turned off to better see the improved road network. (1:24,000 scale) (high resolution image 1 MB) Scan of the 1890 legacy topographic map quadrangle of the greater Madison area from the USGS Historic Topographic Map Collection. (high resolution image 1.7 MB)