Key nonfuel mineral commodities that support the U.S. economy and national security are increasingly being sourced from outside the U.S., according to a new U.S. Geological Survey publication.
Over the past 60 years, there has been an increase in the number and diversity of nonfuel commodities that the U.S. imports as well as the extent to which the U.S. is import reliant. In 1954, for example, the U.S. was 100 percent import reliant for the supply of eight minerals commodities, meaning all of the supply came from outside of the U.S. By 2014 this number had increased to 19.
“Because the global distribution of mineral reserves and resources is not uniform, the United States has always been import reliant for some mineral commodities. It is important to recognize, however, that import reliance does not necessarily mean that there is a supply risk,” said Steven M. Fortier, Director of the USGS National Minerals Information Center. “Essentially, the type of commodities imported and the countries from which they are sourced determine risk related to import reliance.”
In addition, the new report also found the geographic distribution of sources has also changed dramatically. In 1954, the sources for imported mineral commodities were dominantly in the Western Hemisphere, with Canada, Mexico and Brazil as major suppliers. While these countries remain major suppliers today, the geographic distribution of mineral commodity import sources had become much more global with many new sources, particularly in Asia, by 1984. This trend has continued. By 2014, China had surpassed Canada as the leading import source, supplying 24 nonfuel mineral commodities, about half of the 47 nonfuel mineral commodities for which the United States was greater than 50 percent net import reliant.
“As the U.S. becomes increasingly reliant on a wide range of mineral resources needed to fuel technological developments that support our economy and national security, it is more important than ever that we continue to monitor and evaluate global changes in supply and demand of these important resources,” said Fortier.
Eighty five percent of male smallmouth bass and 27 percent of male largemouth bass tested in waters in or near 19 National Wildlife Refuges in the Northeast U.S. were intersex, according to a new study by U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service researchers.
Intersex is when one sex develops characteristics of the opposite sex. It is tied to the exposure of fish to endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can affect the reproductive system and cause the development of characteristics of the opposite sex, such as immature eggs in the testes of male fish. Intersex is a global issue, as wild-caught fish affected by endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been found in locations across the world.
Estrogenic endocrine-disrupting chemicals are derived from a variety of sources, from natural estrogens to synthetic pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals that enter the waterways. Examples include some types of birth control pills, natural sex hormones in livestock manures, herbicides and pesticides.
“It is not clear what the specific cause of intersex is in these fish,” said Luke Iwanowicz, a USGS research biologist and lead author of the paper. “This study was designed to identify locations that may warrant further investigation. Chemical analyses of fish or water samples at collection sites were not conducted, so we cannot attribute the observation of intersex to specific, known estrogenic endocrine—disrupting chemicals.”
This prevalence of intersex fish in this study is much higher than that found in a similar USGS study that evaluated intersex in black basses in nine river basins in the United States. That study did not include river basins in the Northeast.
"The results of this new study show the extent of endocrine disrupting chemicals on refuge lands using bass as an indicator for exposures that may affect fish and other aquatic species," said Fred Pinkney, a USFWS contaminants biologist and study coauthor. "To help address this issue, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service encourages management actions that reduce runoff into streams, ponds and lakes -- both on and off of refuge lands.”
The journal article, Evidence of estrogenic endocrine disruption in smallmouth and largemouth bass inhabiting Northeast U.S. National Wildlife Refuge waters: a reconnaissance study,” by L.R. Iwanowicz, V.S. Blazer, A.E. Pinkney, C.P. Guy, A.M. Major, K. Munney, S. Mierzykowski, S. Lingenfelser, A. Secord, K. Patnode, T.J. Kubiak, C. Stern, C.M. Hahn, D.D. Iwanowicz, H.L. Walsh, and A. Sperry is available online in Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – After five years of drought, many owners of homes and second homes in California may shrug off the suggestion of buying flood insurance. El Niño and the recent wildfires may change the minds of many.
In California, El Niño means extremely heavy rainfall that could lead to devastating flooding, especially in areas affected by prolonged drought and recent wildfires.Language English
AUSTIN, Texas – A State/FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) is now open in Hays County for homeowners, renters and business owners who sustained damage as a result of the ongoing severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding from Oct. 22 to Oct. 31.
Specialists from the State of Texas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), nongovernmental organizations and the local community are on hand to answer questions and provide information on the types of assistance available to survivors.Language English
DENTON, Texas – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urges people to buy flood insurance now – before the next flood hits.
Flooding is the nation’s number one natural disaster, a fact people in this part of the United States know all too well. Yet statistics indicate most people ignore the risks associated with flooding and do not buy flood insurance.
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina residents affected by Oct. 1-23 storms and flooding can get information and answers to questions by calling the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s helpline.
Residents can call the helpline at 800-621-3362. Lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice. Survivors who use TTY may call 800-462-7585; those who use 711/VRS can call 800-621-3362. They can also visit www.disasterassistance.gov.Language English
AUSTIN, Texas – When disasters such as the October severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding strike, farmers and ranchers may be eligible for assistance from several agencies and should apply today.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may assist survivors who are farmers and ranchers with some immediate needs including:
Grants to pay for temporary housing and minor home repairs,
Grants to replace personal property, including clothing,
COLUMBIA, S.C. - One disaster recovery center will close Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 6 p.m.:
John Ford Community Center at 304 Agnes St. in St. Matthews
Applicants in St. Matthews may still visit other recovery centers to ask disaster assistance questions. They can locate their closest center by visiting asd.fema.gov/inter/locator/home.htm.Language English
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Survivors of the Butte and Valley fires who are receiving rental assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and whose home repairs are taking longer than expected should notify the agency of their continuing need.Language English
A new approach to ranking copper resources could result in identifying future supplies of copper while saving both time and money, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. This technique has been used to evaluate 10 areas of the world where undiscovered copper resources in sedimentary rock could be found. The areas are in addition to five, higher priority areas recently studied by the USGS.
Ultimately, the results of the assessment indicate that the top three areas in the ranked list are in Namibia and Botswana (Northwest Botswana Rift), Angola (Benguela and Cuanza Basins), and the Middle East (Egypt–Israel–Jordan Rift). The only area in the United States, an area in Montana (Belt-Purcell Basin), is ranked 6th on the list.
“This new approach has the potential to be a real boon in studying mineral deposits,” said USGS scientist Michael Zientek, the study’s lead author. “Not only is it faster and less expensive, it also gives us robust, quantifiable results to help us better direct our focus and resources in studying minerals.”
All 10 of these areas represent possible future sources of supply. Some currently have no significant mineral production. Montana’s Belt-Purcell Basin has only one operating mine in production. The areas are in addition to five, higher priority areas recently studied by the USGS.
Other areas have been known for some time to have significant copper resources. The Jordan-Israel-Egypt Rift was mined in antiquity and was a major source of copper for bronze-age cultures in the region.
The 10 areas ranked were included because they have a range of data quality and availability, as well as ample access to geologic, tectonic and mineral resource information.
“Copper is one of the critical and strategic minerals of our economy, making it a perfect choice to test this novel approach on,” said Larry Meinert, Program Coordinator for the USGS Mineral Resources Program. “Identifying and understanding our domestic mineral wealth is a vital part of ensuring the security of our supply chain for these resources.”
The new ranking tool works by taking expert opinions and breaking them into explicit and quantifiable criteria that can then be compared and ranked. Expert opinions are a traditional method of evaluating mineral deposits, but lack transparency. This approach not only brings a level of transparency, but also, as this latest research demonstrates, is straightforward and robust.
This new study is part of a larger Global Mineral Resource Assessment effort to update knowledge of the geologic setting, occurrence, and amount of the Nation’s and World’s copper resources.Figure showing the top three ranked areas. Clockwise from the top: Northwest Botswana Rift, Benguela and Cuanza Basins, and the Egypt–Israel–Jordan Rift. (High resolution image)
Scientists from the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey have reconstructed the recent migration history of ponderosa pine trees in the central Rocky Mountains. Their recently published study on the movement of this species, through centuries and across complex terrain, is unprecedented in its methodology and scope. The investigation informs an uncertain climate and ecological future.
Experts project that climate change will force many species to adjust their geographical distributions in the near future, with cascading consequences for biodiversity, conservation biology, and ecosystem services. Important lessons can be drawn from an understanding of the movement rates and pathways of northward migrations of vegetation that followed the end of the last Ice Age, some of which are still ongoing.
Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), the most widely distributed pine in North America, experienced one of the most rapid and extensive of these post-glacial plant migrations. The eastern race of ponderosa pine (variety scopulorum) spread northward along the Rocky Mountains, starting at its northernmost known distribution in southern New Mexico and Arizona around 13,000 years ago, and reached central Montana only within the last millennium. The western race (variety ponderosa) experienced a parallel but less well-known migration along the Sierra Nevada, eventually mingling with the northernmost populations of the eastern race in the northern Rockies.
The researchers, funded in part by the National Science Foundation, focused their efforts on the northern half of the distribution in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana, which they assumed had experienced the most recent spread of ponderosa pine. The study targeted sites where ponderosa grows today in settings suitable for the preservation of fossil packrat middens.
Packrat middens are rock-hard amalgamations of easily-identified plant and animal remains embedded in crystallized urine, commonly preserved in rock shelters and crevices, and readily datable to within a few decades using radiocarbon analysis. Since the 1960s, several thousand middens found in semi-arid areas from Mexico to Canada have been analyzed to reconstruct vegetation changes over the past 50,000 years.
The team collected 90 middens spanning the last 11,000 years to pinpoint the arrival of ponderosa pine at each of 14 sites in western South Dakota, northern Wyoming, and west-central Montana. Jodi Norris, a National Park Service ecologist and senior author of the study, likened the fieldwork to “a treasure hunt where you and your science buddies clamber on cliffs looking for packrat leftovers to track the natural spread of a common conifer in the West.”
A key finding was that the eastern race of ponderosa spread across the region by island hopping a few tens of kilometers at a time to suitable establishment sites, likely aided by seed dispersal via birds. The eastern race colonized many of its northernmost sites, including sites where it now hybridizes with the western race in West-Central Montana, only within the last two millennia.
Norris and her USGS co-authors, Julio Betancourt and Stephen Jackson, used a bioclimatic model for the modern distribution of ponderosa pine to infer that the most recent spread must have been driven by increases in July temperature and precipitation. Future expansion of the ponderosa pine range will largely depend on the nature and pace of climate change in the region (principally warming). Considering other factors such as heavy land use and invasive species, native plant migrations in the future might be more complicated than in the past.
Betancourt cautioned, “Ponderosa pine migration in the past happened sluggishly in fits and starts, tracking the pace of climate variability. But future migration will have to march to unusually rapid warming, this time disrupted by pervasive land use. If expansion to increasingly warmer and more suitable sites far to the north is desirable, ponderosa dispersal will have to be assisted by deliberate and strategic planting.”
The research study, authored by Jodi Norris (National Park Service-Flagstaff; Northern Arizona University), Julio Betancourt (USGS-Reston, Va.), and Stephen Jackson (USGS-Tucson), was published online in the Journal of Biogeography.
FEMA Mitigation Advisers Offer Guidance to Flood Survivors in Charleston, Conway, Lexington, West Ashley and West Columbia
COLUMBIA, S.C. – As South Carolinians rebuild and repair after the recent historic floods, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and local home improvement stores have teamed up to provide free information, tips and literature on making homes stronger and safer.
FEMA mitigation specialists will be on hand to answer questions and offer home improvement tips to prevent and lessen damage from future disasters. Most of the information is geared towards do-it-yourself work and general contractors.Language English
AUSTIN, Texas – Most Texans who have registered for disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), following the October severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding, will receive an automated phone call from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
FEMA grants may not cover all damage or property loss. Private insurance and low-interest loans from the SBA are major sources of additional funding for disaster recovery.Language English
Help Remains Available After Disaster Recovery Centers Close in Little River, Summerville and Walterboro
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Three disaster recovery centers will close Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 6 p.m.:
North Strand Park and Recreation Center at 120 Highway 57 South in Little River
Seacoast Church at 301 E. 5th North St. in Summerville
Colleton County Recreation Center at 280 Recreation Lane in Walterboro
CAMP MURRAY, Wash. – Washington’s devastating 2014 and 2015 wildfire seasons put vast areas of the state at risk of erosion and flooding, posing additional dangers to residents and communities. Today, a collaborative effort among all levels of government is finding ways to reduce that risk.Language English
COLUMBIA, S.C. - One disaster recovery center will close Saturday, Dec. 12 at 3 p.m.:
- Recreation Center at 397 Chappell Drive in Bishopville
Applicants in Bishopville may still visit other recovery centers to ask disaster assistance questions. They can locate their closest center by visiting asd.fema.gov/inter/locator/home.htm.Language English
Reston, VA— The United States is completely reliant on imports of tantalum, which is a commonly used element in electronics, to meet its domestic consumption for economic and national security needs. A new U.S. Geological Survey report illustrates the dramatic change of the international sources of primary mined tantalum over the past 15 years.Annual mine production of tantalum contained in mined concentrates by country for the years 2000 through 2014 and events that affected mine production.(High resolution image)
Tantalum possesses unique material properties that make it particularly well suited for use as a capacitor in sophisticated electronic circuits in everything from smartphones to defense applications.
Tantalum is named as a “conflict mineral” under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act; this act requires companies that use tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold to perform due diligence on their supply chains to determine whether these materials were sourced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or adjacent countries. Tantalum is also widely viewed as a critical mineral because of the impact a supply disruption could have on important applications in electronic systems. Consequently, it is one of the mineral commodities tracked by the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency as part of its mission to maintain the National Defense Stockpile.
As illustrated in the chart below, primary mining of tantalum has undergone a major geographic shift from the year 2000, when supply was dominated by Australia and Brazil, to the current situation where supply is principally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and other African nations. Global supply has migrated from countries characterized by low governance risk, industrial mining practices, and supply chain transparency to countries characterized by high governance risk, artisanal methods, and a lack of supply chain transparency.
Sources of tantalum produced from 2000-2014
"Tantalum occupies a special niche among metals as a result of its position at the nexus between conflict and critical minerals," said Steven M. Fortier, director of the USGS National Minerals Information Center that produced the recent report. “The dramatic shifts in primary mine production of tantalum over the past 15 years is a textbook example of why the USGS plays such an active role in collecting, analyzing and disseminating information on mineral commodities of importance to the U.S. economy and national security.
To learn more about tantalum visit the Mineral Commodity Summaries 2015 webpage.
Continued Decline of the Northern Spotted Owl Associated with the Invasive Barred Owl, Habitat Loss, and Climate Variation
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Northern spotted owl populations are declining in all parts of their range in the Pacific Northwest, according to research published in The Condor. Based on data from 11 study areas across Washington, Oregon and northern California, a rangewide decline of nearly 4 percent per year was estimated from 1985 to 2013.
Researchers found evidence that the invasive barred owl is playing a pivotal role in the continued decline of spotted owls, although habitat loss and climate variation were also important in some parts of the species range. Barred owls compete with spotted owls for space, food and habitat.
This research indicated that since monitoring began spotted owl populations declined 55-77 percent in Washington, 31-68 percent in Oregon and 32-55 percent in California. In addition, population declines are now occurring on study areas in southern Oregon and northern California that were previously experiencing little to no detectable decline through 2009.
Dr. Katie Dugger, a research biologist at the USGS Oregon Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Oregon State University and lead author on the report, said that “This study provides strong evidence that barred owls are negatively affecting spotted owl populations. The presence of barred owls was associated with decreasing spotted owl survival rates in some study areas and spotted owls were disappearing from many of their historical breeding territories as those areas were invaded by barred owls.”
The exception was a small area in California where barred owl removals began in 2009, and where long-term population declines were only 9 percent. Spotted owl populations and survival rates have increased on the latter area since the removal of barred owls started. However, further research on barred owl removal is required in other parts of the spotted owl’s range -- especially in Washington, where barred owl numbers have been high for a long time.
Additionally, said Dugger, "The amount of suitable habitat required by spotted owls for nesting and roosting is important because spotted owl survival, colonization of empty territories, and number of young produced tends to be higher in areas with larger amounts of suitable habitat, at least on some study areas."
Relationships between spotted owl populations and climate was complex and variable, but rangewide, the study results suggested that survival of young spotted owls and their ability to become part of the breeding population increased when winters were drier. This may become a factor in population numbers in the future, given climate change predictions for the Pacific Northwest include warmer, wetter winters.
The collaborative team of 37 researchers analyzed data from 11 study areas that represented 9 percent of the spotted owl range. During the study, field crews monitored how many owls inhabited different territories, and the yearly survival and reproductive success of banded spotted owls. “This type of collaborative research focused on specific management and conservation objectives provides important information for resource managers and policy decision-makers who manage public resources,” said Eric Forsman, a coauthor on the study at the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station.
The paper, “The effects of habitat, climate and barred owls on long-term demography of northern spotted owls,” was published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications and authored by Katie M. Dugger, USGS, Oregon Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Oregon State University Department of Fisheries and Wildlife; Eric D. Forsman, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station; Alan B. Franklin, USDA APHIS National Wildlife Research Center; Raymond Davis, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, and 33 others.
Although they do occur in young forests in some areas, northern spotted owls are strongly associated with old forest in most of their range. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the northern spotted owl as threatened in 1990 because of the declines in old-growth forest habitat throughout its range in Washington, Oregon and northern California.
Rapid predictions of harmful algal blooms, or large growths of toxin-producing bacteria in water, can help prevent recreationalists from getting sick at Ohio lakes, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report.
Scientists with the USGS and partners made real-time water-quality and environmental measurements at seven recreational areas in Ohio during 2013‒2014. Their goal was to identify factors that could be used in models to quickly predict microcystin levels and provide advisories to swimmers and boaters. Microcystin is the most commonly detected toxin found in freshwater algal blooms. Models are used successfully at Lake Erie beaches as part of the Ohio Nowcast for predicting E. coli concentrations, but have not been tested for algal bloom predictions.
“Algal bloom toxins in water are currently measured in the laboratory, and results take time,” said Donna Francy, the lead USGS scientist for the study. “Utilizing nowcasts to determine when and where a bloom may occur in real-time can better protect people like swimmers and boaters that use and consume water resources.”
These toxic blooms, which sometimes turn water a green or a blue-green color, can be irritating to skin and may affect the human liver and nervous system if consumed. The bacteria that cause algal blooms are cyanobacteria. A cyanobacterial harmful algal bloom, or cyanoHAB, occurs when water conditions like excess nutrients, sunlight, warm temperatures and water levels favor growth of toxin-producing cyanobacteria over other aquatic organisms.
The scientists collected data and analyzed the results to determine that cyanoHAB nowcasts are feasible in Ohio. Study sites included Ohio State Park beaches at Buckeye Lake, Buck Creek, Deer Creek, East Fork Lake and Maumee Bay State Park; a boater/swim area at Buckeye Lake; and two locally operated beaches in Port Clinton and Bay View.
“The Ohio Nowcast system for E. coli, operating since 2006, is similar to a weather forecast except that current water-quality conditions instead of future conditions are estimated,” said Francy. “Since a nowcast has worked for E. coli, we decided to try to develop one for cyanoHABs and their associated toxins.”
The scientists collected weekly to monthly data for two recreational seasons and identified factors that could be used to predict microcystin concentrations at a variety of freshwater sites. Measurements of a pigment called phycocyanin, water clarity, water pH, streamflow from a nearby river and lake level changes over 24 hours were among the best factors to estimate microcystin levels in real-time. Future studies will focus on collecting more frequent data to develop site-specific models to use in cyanoHAB nowcasts.
A full list of cooperators on the Ohio cyanoHAB nowcast project is available in the USGS report.
For more information on water-quality research in Ohio, visit the USGS Ohio Water Science Center website.
AUSTIN, Texas – At the request of the state, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has added Cameron County to the Texas disaster declaration of Nov. 25. The counties now designated for Individual Assistance include Bastrop, Brazoria, Caldwell, Cameron, Comal, Galveston, Guadalupe, Hardin, Harris, Hays, Hidalgo, Liberty, Navarro, Travis, Willacy and Wilson Counties.Language English