Reporters: Do you want to accompany a USGS field crew as they measure flooding? Please contact Ayla Ault at 815-756-9207.
U.S. Geological Survey field crews are measuring record flooding on rivers and streams across most of Illinois.
At least ten USGS streamgages in Illinois that have more than 20 years of record, have measured the highest flood levels ever recorded. More record levels are expected as flooding moves downstream. USGS crews are expected to track the movement of the floodwaters down the Illinois River, the Rock Rivers, and major tributaries over the next few days. Many of the Illinois River floodwaters are expected to exceed records and may result in major flooding that overtop levees. There are 53 USGS streamgages currently at or above flood levels as a result of the rains that began on Tuesday, April 16.
USGS scientists are collecting critical streamflow data that are vital for protection of life, property and the environment. These data are used by the National Weather Service to develop flood forecasts, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to manage flood control, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and local agencies in their flood response activities. More information is available on the USGS Illinois Water Science Center website.
"These measurements are made using state-of-the-art equipment, including hydroacoustic meters, which gives the USGS the ability to make accurate and reliable streamflow measurements under extreme flow conditions," said USGS hydrologist Gary Johnson. "Accurate streamflow measurements are critical for emergency managers to make important decisions on how to protect life and property."
There are about 250 USGS-operated streamgages in Illinois that measure water levels, streamflow, and rainfall. When flooding occurs, USGS crews make numerous discharge measurements to verify the data USGS provides to federal, state, and local agencies, as well as to the public.
For more than 125 years, the USGS has monitored flow in selected streams and rivers across the U.S. The information is routinely used for water supply and management, monitoring floods and droughts, bridge and road design, determination of flood risk, and for many recreational activities.
Access current flood and high flow conditions across the country by visiting the USGS WaterWatch website. Receive instant, customized updates about water conditions in your area via text message or email by signing up for USGS WaterAlert.
VANCOUVER, Wash. – The U.S. Geological Survey Cascades Volcano Observatory is cancelling its planned May 4th public open house due to to the federal budget sequestration.
USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory has hosted a public open house every few years at its offices on the east side of Vancouver since moving there in 2002, but with major budget cuts this year, cannot support "extracurricular" activities on top of the most critical work of studying, monitoring, and responding to volcanic eruptions in the Cascade Range and around the world.
During past day-long open houses, USGS-CVO staff takes a break from regular research and monitoring duties and provides demonstrations of volcano monitoring equipment such as seismographs, specialized GPS units, and infrared sensors. Staff members discuss results of recent local to global volcano research, eruption response, hazard maps, and ash and rock samples using a variety of visual aids. Volcano learning activities for children are a major attraction, as is the opportunity for the public to bring in rock samples for identification.
CVO open houses are a rare opportunity for the public to meet one-on-one with the approximately 55 people who work at the observatory, and learn about the critical work done monitoring active volcanoes. The most recent public open house was in May, 2010. About 1,200 people attended the event.
The cancellation is being taken at a time when the USGS is making tough choices on how best to implement the mandatory budget cuts. The USGS has implemented a hiring freeze; eliminated or significantly reduced participation in all scientific conferences; cancelled all non-mandatory, non-mission critical training; directed a review of contracts and grants to determine which should be delayed, re-scoped, or terminated; and may have to furlough employees for an undetermined amount of time.
The USGS will re-evaluate the future of USGS-CVO open houses as the budget allows. Please continue to check for updated information about Cascade volcanoes and future observatory events on the CVO website.
BOISE, Idaho— Among the diverse array of western habitats available to them, greater sage-grouse require sagebrush-dominated landscapes with extremely minimal levels of human land use according to USGS researchers who detailed the scientific results in a recently published report about the ecological conditions needed by this large, ground-dwelling bird.
The science, published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, was done to describe and accurately map the basic combination of factors necessary to support sage-grouse across large expanses of its range. Scientists compiled and analyzed information about the environment surrounding 3,000 active breeding areas, known as leks, within a 355,000 square–mile portion of the sage-grouse’s historic range. Environmental factors examined within a 3-mile radius of each lek were climate, land cover, and densities of roads, power lines, pipelines, and communication towers.
Ninety-nine percent of active leks were in landscapes with less than 3 percent of a developed category of land cover, and all lands surrounding leks were less than 14 percent developed. Further, most leks were in regions characterized by broad expanses of sagebrush and containing less than 25 percent agricultural activity. The location of leks relative to some specific types of infrastructure also was documented. For example, the average number of communication towers per square mile was 0.2 for the study area as a whole, 0.04 for active leks, but 7.1 for locations where sage-grouse occurred historically but not presently.
"We knew, from previously published science, that human activity affected sage-grouse, but our results in this new research showed that most leks were even absent from areas that had very low levels of human activity," said Steve Knick, a USGS scientist and the lead author of the report.
The importance of sagebrush as habitat for sage-grouse also was affirmed by this study. The vast majority of leks occurred where at least 40 percent of the surrounding landscape was dominated by sagebrush. Furthermore, almost all leks were in areas containing few conifer trees or few grassland expanses. These results are consistent with other evidence that sage-grouse are vulnerable to decreases in sagebrush due to the spread of invasive grasses in some areas and due to the encroachment of junipers and other conifer trees in other areas.
Leks also occurred in drier-than-average regions within a small temperature and precipitation range, suggesting that predicted changes in climate may cause lek locations to change depending on where there are optimal arid conditions.
Ecological connections among sage-grouse populations across the large study area also were described because species with multiple interconnected populations are more likely to persist than those with isolated populations. Large populations within the interior of the sage-grouse range were highly interconnected. In contrast, smaller populations along the range periphery often were connected to only one or two neighboring populations. Habitat changes in the connecting corridors that limit or disrupt sage-grouse movement could further isolate these peripheral populations, putting them at increased risk of loss.
Greater sage-grouse currently occupy approximately half of their historic range across western North America. They are a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act because of habitat and population fragmentation coupled with inadequate regulatory mechanism to control development in critical areas. Most of the sagebrush habitat used by sage-grouse is under public land management, with 50 percent managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
The publication is Knick, S.T., S.E. Hanser, and K.L. Preston. 2013. Modeling ecological minimum requirements for distribution of greater sage-grouse leks: implications for population connectivity across their western range, U.S.A. Ecology and Evolution.
Just in time for Earth Day, the U.S. Geological Survey is pleased to announce the winners of the "App-lifying USGS Earth Science Data" Challenge. The USGS invited developers, information scientists, biologists/ecologists, and scientific data visualization specialists to create applications for selected USGS datasets, presenting them in innovative and informative new ways.
The winner for Best Overall App is "TaxaViewer" by the rOpenSci group based out of California. TaxaViewer is a Web interface to a mashup of data from the USGS-sponsored Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), the Phylotastic taxonomic Name service, the Global Invasive Species Database, Phylomatic, and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. TaxaViewer allows the user to view species-specific taxonomic data, invasive status, phylogenetic relationships, and species occurrence records.
The Popular Choice App award goes to the "Species Comparison Tool" by Kimberly Sparks of Raleigh, N.C., which allows users to explore the USGS Gap Analysis Program distribution and/or range of two species concurrently. In addition, the application's "swipe tool" provides the ability to make visual comparisons of the maps. The application also incorporates ITIS data and provides external links to NatureServe species information.
"These applications provide us and, more importantly, the public with easy-to-use tools for accessing and viewing taxonomic and biogeographic data," said Kevin Gallagher, USGS Associate Director of Core Science Systems. "The innovative and thoughtful ideas represented in these applications are great examples of how complex data can be made more accessible."
The Challenge was open for submissions from January 9, 2013, to April 1, 2013. Entries spanned a cross-section of topics including taxonomic classification, conservation status of species, the range and distribution of animals, and one innovative app integrating social media with species occurrence records.
"We were extremely impressed with the caliber of applications we received for this Challenge," said Cheryl Morris, Director of USGS Core Science Analytics and Synthesis (CSAS). "The hard work and innovation that went into these applications is evident in their popularity, usability, and goal of making USGS data more readily accessible to all users."
Winners were selected based on relevance to the USGS and CSAS missions, innovation in design, and overall ease of use of the application. Utilizing the Challege.gov platform, the general public chose the winner of the Popular Choice App award.
More information about the winning applications can be found at the CSAS Challenge site. All of the submissions can be accessed on the App-lifying USGS Earth Science Data Challenge site.
Learn more about USGS Core Science Analytics and Synthesis programs and activities.
Biodiversity Information Serving Our Nation or BISON is the only system of its kind; a unique, web-based Federal resource for finding species in the U. S. and territories. Its size is unprecedented, offering more than 100 million mapped records of nearly every living species nationwide and growing. And the vast majority of the records are specific locations, not just county or state records.
What’s more, BISON provides an "Area of Interest" search capability in which users can query by drawing the exact boundary around their area of interest, down to and including towns, villages, or even much smaller areas such as parks. For instance, New York City's Central Park has more than 100,000 "species occurrences" recorded in BISON, with each species noted in detail. Other BISON search options include querying the species by scientific or common name, year range, state, county, basis of record, or provider institution.
As for the results, BISON displays them in both an interactive map and a list format. Users can click on each species occurrence point to retrieve more information, such as the institution providing the data, the collector, the date collected, and whether it was from a collection or an observation. Further, occurrences can be dynamically visualized with more than 50 other layers of environmental information in the system. Extensive web services are also available for direct connections to other systems.
"The USGS is proud to announce this monumental resource", said Kevin Gallagher, Associate Director, Core Science Systems," and this is a testament to the power of combining the efforts of hundreds of thousands of professional and citizen scientists into a resource that uses Big Data and Open Data principles to deliver biodiversity information for sustaining the Nation's environmental capital".
"BISON is destined to become an indispensable toolkit to manage species occurrence data to support scientific, educational, and policy-making activities in the US", Dr. Erick Mata, Executive Director of the Encyclopedia of Life explained. "This is highly complementary and synergistic with EOL's efforts to raise awareness and understanding of living nature."
"With BISON, the USGS takes a big step toward making biodiversity data held within Federal agencies easier to find and use", added Mary Klein, President & CEO of NatureServe. "I am enthusiastic about future opportunities to work with USGS to increase collaboration among Federal, state and private data holders."
USGS Core Science Systems Mission Area, which developed the resource, expects that BISON users will be broad-based and include land managers, researchers, refuge managers, citizen scientists, agriculture professionals, fisheries managers, water resource managers, educators, and more.
Land managers, for instance, might be looking for a piece of land to purchase for conservation—but first they want to know what species have been documented for that parcel. BISON will tell them after only a few mouse clicks.
BISON serves as the U.S. Node of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and will form an integral part of EcoINFORMA, the information delivery strategy in "Sustaining Environmental Capital: Protecting Society and the Economy," a recent report by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).
"BISON responds directly to a key need PCAST pointed out in 'Sustaining Environmental Capital' - to make Federal environmental data available, inter-operable, and usable to the public," said PCAST member Rosina Bierbaum, "We look forward to this 'biodiversity' hub being supplemented by complementary ecological data hubs by other Federal partners, to further the goal of helping communities across the Nation make increasingly wise planning and management decisions."
BISON already includes millions of points from the Federal investment in biodiversity research. It is formally cooperating with other Federal agencies to greatly expand the delivery of federally funded biodiversity data for the greatest possible good. Hundreds of thousands of citizen and professional scientists have collected the data in BISON. Non-governmental organizations, state and local governments, universities, and many others are also participating in this enormous undertaking.
The USGS has built and maintains BISON, which is hosted on the massive Federal computing infrastructure at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The USGS Core Science Analytics and Synthesis program within Core Science Systems is home to BISON and focuses on innovative ways to manage and deliver scientific data and information. The program implements and promotes standards and best practices to enable efficient, data-driven science for decision-making that supports a rapid response to emerging natural resource issues. One of the ways this is accomplished is by developing national data products that increase our understanding of the Earth’s natural systems.
The report and maps are posted online.
NEW CUMBERLAND, Pa. – Eight percent of more than 5,000 wells tested across Pennsylvania contain groundwater with levels of arsenic at or above federal standards set for public drinking water, while an additional 12 percent – though not exceeding standards – show elevated levels of arsenic.
These findings, along with maps depicting areas in the state most likely to have elevated levels of arsenic in groundwater, are part of a recently released U.S. Geological Survey study done in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Environmental Protection.
The results highlight the importance of private well owners testing and potentially treating their water. While public water supplies are treated to ensure that water reaching the tap of households meets federal drinking water standards, private wells are unregulated in Pennsylvania, and owners are responsible for testing and treating their own water.
For this study, USGS scientists compiled data collected between 1969 and 2007 from industrial, public, and private wells. Arsenic levels, along with other groundwater quality and environmental factors, were used to generate statewide and regional maps that predict the probability of elevated arsenic. The study examined groundwater from carbonate, crystalline, and shale/sandstone bedrock aquifers, and from shallow glacial sediment aquifers. Similar maps have been produced for other states.
"This research is not intended to predict arsenic levels for individual wells; its purpose is to predict the probability of elevated levels of arsenic in groundwater to help public health efforts in Pennsylvania," said USGS scientist Eliza Gross, who led the study. "The study results and associated probability maps provide water-resource managers and health officials with useful data as they consider management actions in areas where groundwater is most likely to contain elevated levels of arsenic."
The Pennsylvania Department of Health plans to use the maps as an educational tool to inform health professionals and citizens of the Commonwealth about the possibility of elevated arsenic in drinking water wells and to help improve the health of residents, particularly in rural communities.
Arsenic occurs naturally and, in Pennsylvania, is most common in shallow glacial and shale/sandstone type aquifers, particularly those containing pyrite minerals. Arsenic can also result from human activities. Geologic conditions, such as fractures, and chemical factors in groundwater, such as low oxygen, extreme pH, and salinity, can cause arsenic to leach from rocks, become mobile, and contaminate wells distant from the source. Groundwater with elevated arsenic levels – more than 4 micrograms per liter -- can be found in scattered locations throughout Pennsylvania.
Arsenic in drinking water has been linked to several types of cancer, reproductive problems, diabetes, a weakened immune system, and developmental delays in children. Arsenic can be reduced or eliminated in tap water through treatment.
Private well owners can find testing and other information on Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Arsenic in Drinking Water website.
More than 50 years of water-quality data in the Piceance Basin are now available from the U.S. Geological Survey in two new reports.
The need for this baseline water-resources assessment was identified by energy producers and local governments to address concerns regarding potential changes to surface-water and groundwater resources as large-scale energy development and population growth occurs in the Piceance Basin. Data from 1,545 wells collected from1946 through 2009 were compiled, evaluated, and compared with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking-water standards, and are published in a USGS groundwater quality report, available online. Additionally, 347 surface-water sites were compared to EPA drinking-water and Colorado State standards, and are contained in a separate surface-water report.
Groundwater findings include:
- Recharge—the downward movement of surface water to groundwater—to most wells was derived from precipitation.
- Dissolved-solids concentrations commonly exceeded the EPA secondary drinking-water standard. Dissolved solids consist of minerals, organic matter, and nutrients that have dissolved in water. The major components of dissolved solids of natural waters include bicarbonate, calcium, sulfate, hydrogen, silica, chlorine, magnesium, sodium, potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus in the form of phosphate.
- Arsenic concentrations were higher in low oxygen groundwater and likely from naturally occurring rock.
- Nitrate levels likely associated with septic systems, animal manure, or fertilizer.
- The majority of methane detections were found near the Mamm Creek-Divide Creek area.
Surface-water findings include:
- Salinity and selenium concentrations and loads—a primary concern for water managers in the Lower Gunnison River basin—are generally trending downward.
- Approximately 30 percent of phosphorus samples exceeded EPA’s recommended standard.
- Overall results varied by site.
“Data gaps were identified and suggestions provided to develop long-term regional-scale monitoring strategies to fill data gaps, minimize information redundancies, and to assist managers in making informed decisions regarding land and water resources,” said David Brown, Western Colorado Office Chief for the USGS Colorado Water Science Center.
This voluntary effort between energy producers and local, state, and federal agencies inventoried existing water resources in the Piceance Basin. The resulting data repository is the most comprehensive collection of Piceance Basin water-quality sampling information available in a single location.
The USGS studies were done in cooperation with (in alphabetical order): Antero Resources; Bureau of Land Management; Bureau of Reclamation; Chevron Corporation; Cities of Grand Junction and Rifle, Colo.; Colorado Department of Agriculture; Colorado Department of Natural Resources; Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment; Colorado Division of Wildlife—River Watch; Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission; Colorado River Water Conservation District; Counties of Delta, Garfield, and Rio Blanco, Colo.; EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc.; Gunnison Energy Corp.; National Park Service; Natural Soda, Inc.; North Fork River Improvement Association; Oxy Petroleum Corporation; Petroleum Development Corp.; Shell Oil Company; Solvay Chemicals; Towns of Carbondale, De Beque, Palisade, Parachute, Rangely, and Silt, Colo.; U.S. Forest Service; West Divide Water Conservancy District; and Williams Companies, Inc.
A team of African and North American scientists led by the U.S. Geological Survey and NatureServe, a conservation non-profit organization, has created a series of continent-wide ecosystem maps that offer the most detailed portrayals of Africa's natural setting yet produced. The new maps and related data on landforms, geology, bioclimates, and vegetation can be used across Africa for conservation planning and resource management, as well as for impact assessments of climate change and changes in land use, such as agriculture, deforestation, and urbanization.
"This was a multi-organizational, international collaboration to create new earth science datasets for the entire continent at finer resolutions than ever before," said Matt Larsen, USGS Associate Director for Climate and Land Use Change. "An added benefit is that this information about ecosystem conditions can be put to many different uses. It will have tremendous utility beyond ecosystem assessments."
USGS and NatureServe researchers collaborated with the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), based in Nairobi, Kenya. RCMRD hosted two workshops where invited experts from many African nations developed a new classification of African ecosystems and provided location data for the newly classified ecosystems.
Overall, a total of 37 experts from 18 countries worked together to formulate the ecosystem classifications (126 distinct ecosystems were mapped) and produce the maps at a base resolution of 90 meters.
"This much improved baseline of Africa's ecosystem conditions has the potential for more accurate carbon assessment studies in Africa," observed USGS scientist Roger Sayre, lead author of the publication.
Determination of biological carbon stocks in ecosystems is an emerging science. Currently, carbon stocks are assessed in general biome categories like forests, grasses, shrublands, wetlands, deserts, and agricultural lands. The increased classification resolution supplied by the new African ecosystems maps will facilitate a more robust assignment of carbon inventories to a greater, more precise number of biological sources.
The Association of American Geographers (AAG) provided key support for the final publication. The publication is available in digital form from the USGS.
A new map of standardized terrestrial ecosystems of Africa
2013, Sayre, Roger; Comer, Patrick; Hak, Jon; Josse, Carmen; Bow, Jacquie; et al.
African Geographical Review
Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Geological Survey will work together to evaluate whether a small unmanned aircraft can save state wildlife managers time, money and offer a safer and enhanced alternative to gather greater sage-grouse data.
During the media-only event, a USGS crew will field launch the aircraft and media will have the opportunity to take photos, video and get a first-hand look at the system.
Representatives from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the USGS, and the Bureau of Land Management will be available for interviews.
When: Friday, April 12 - 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (Please be punctual)
Where: Kremmling, Colo.
- From the intersection of Hwy 9 and Hwy 40, travel north towards Steamboat Springs for approximately 10 miles.
- At the intersection of Grand County Road 25 and Hwy 40, north of Wolford Reservoir, look for a Colorado Parks and Wildlife vehicle parked on the right side of the road. Receive further instructions from there.
- Access and event will take place along a dirt road.
- Dress for variable weather.
- Restroom facilities are not available.
- Bring food, water and other supplies.
- Proper operation of the sUAS requires concentration from the flight crew. Please follow instructions given on-site at all times.
How to participate: By 5 p.m. Thursday, April 11, please confirm your attendance with one of the Media Points of Contact:
If confirming by email, please include your contact information. If the demonstration is cancelled or postponed due to inclement weather, we will notify you as soon as possible.
Additional information about the USGS sUAS program, including video of the aircraft in flight, can be found at online.
For more information about greater sage-grouse, visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website on greater sage-grouse studies.
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Dynamic modeling of sea-level rise, which takes storm wind and wave action into account, paints a much graver picture for some low-lying Pacific islands under climate-change scenarios than the passive computer modeling used in earlier research, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report.
A team led by research oceanographer Curt Storlazzi of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center compared passive "bathtub" inundation models with dynamic models for two of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The team studied Midway, a classic atoll with islands on the shallow (2–8 meters or 6–26 feet deep) atoll rim and a deep, central lagoon, and Laysan, which is higher, with a 20–30 meter (65–98 feet) deep rim and an island in the center of the atoll. Together, the two locations exhibit landforms and coastal features common to many Pacific islands. Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they are also among the world’s most important nesting and breeding sites for migratory birds and other wildlife.
"Passive 'bathtub' inundation models typically used to forecast sea-level rise impacts suggest that most of the low-lying atolls in the Pacific Islands will still be above sea level for the next 50-150 years. By taking wave-driven processes into account, we forecast that many of the atolls will be inundated, contaminating freshwater supplies and thus making the islands uninhabitable, much sooner," Storlazzi said.
The team found that at least twice as much land is forecast to be inundated on Midway and Laysan by sea-level rise than was projected by passive models. For example, 91 percent of Midway's Eastern Island is projected to be inundated under a model that takes into account storm and wave activity accompanied by a sea-level rise of 2 meters (6.5 feet), as compared with only 19 percent under passive sea-level-rise models. Storm waves on Midway are also projected to be three to four times higher than they are today, because more deep-water wave energy could propagate over the atoll rim and larger wind-driven waves could develop on the atoll.
"This report demonstrates the future threat to refuges with the Monument, and the potential impact on nesting seabirds, endangered monk seals and green sea turtles will be considered as we plan for the future," said Doug Staller, the Service's Superintendent of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
These findings have importance not only for island wildlife on the largely uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Storlazzi said, but for the tens of thousands of people who live on other low-lying Pacific Island groups such as those found in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. Because the models attempt to characterize how much land will be washed over by storm waves even if it is not permanently inundated, they offer tools for forecasting where agricultural land may be damaged by repeated saltwater overwash, as well as where groundwater may be contaminated by saltwater. The findings suggest that inundation and impacts to infrastructure and terrestrial habitats will occur at lower values of predicted sea-level rise, and thus sooner in the 21st century, than suggested by passive map-based "bathtub" inundation models.
The report, "Forecasting the Impact of Storm Waves and Sea-Level Rise on Midway Atoll and Laysan Island within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument—A Comparison of Passive Versus Dynamic Inundation Models," is available online.
Ann Arbor, Mich. – The U.S. Geological Survey awarded a contract last Friday for the construction of a large research vessel for Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior to Burger Boat Company of Manitowoc, Wis.
The vessel will replace the 38-year-old Grayling, bringing the USGS Great Lakes Science Center (GLSC) large vessel fleet up-to-date. The new Grayling will be stationed at the USGS base in Cheboygan, Mich., and will incorporate modern marine standards and state-of-the-art technology to more safely and effectively conduct fisheries research.
"I am delighted to have achieved this important milestone that will benefit the Great Lakes region for many decades," said USGS GLSC Director Russell Strach. "This investment would not have been possible without the support from many key partners. The new research vessel will come fully equipped with 21st century laboratories and scientific instrumentation to support fishery science for the Great Lakes."
The funding for this expenditure was accrued from two prior appropriations and held in an account that was not affected by the sequester.
The replacement vessel is expected to be a commercial grade 78-foot vessel, and will be designed and constructed for a 40 to 50-year service life. This vessel will be capable of performing critical scientific and mission-related tasks, including dragging nets along the lake bottom, catching fish, and using sound-waves to detect fish and assess their abundance.
"The entire Burger team is very excited to be awarded this significant contract," said Jim Ruffolo, President and CEO of Burger Boat Company. "The Grayling will further reinforce Burger’s commitment to designing and constructing quality vessels that meet each owner’s specific requirements, whether they are custom yachts or commercial vessels."
This new contract will create additional highly skilled shipbuilding jobs at the Manitowoc shipyard, and the project will help support numerous companies that supply raw materials and equipment for the project.
For over 50 years the USGS GLSC has operated a unique and valuable deepwater fish ecology and assessment program that is the foundation for fisheries management throughout the Great Lakes.
Burger, at 150 years old, is one of the world's oldest shipyards. From its facility in Manitowoc, Wis., Burger's craftsmen have built hundreds of high quality vessels as long as 260 feet (80 meters) that can be found in ports around the world. Today, Burger continues its legacy of designing and building vessels to the highest standard from its fully updated shipyard.
JMS Naval Architects of Mystic, Conn., developed the preliminary design of the new Grayling.
The USGS GLSC maintains a fleet of fishery research vessels on each of the Great Lakes to meet the scientific research needs of state, tribal, and federal resource managers for understanding and effectively managing the Great Lakes fishery.
For more information on the USGS GLSC, visit their website.
President Obama's fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget request for the U.S. Geological Survey is $1.167 billion, an increase of $98.8 million above the 2012 enacted level, reflecting the Administration's commitment to scientific research and development as the foundation for innovation, socio-economic well-being, environmental sustainability, and sound decisionmaking. This includes science to support the safe and responsible development of domestic energy, protect critical water resources and ecosystems, respond to natural disasters, and advance our understanding and resilience to the effects of climate change.
The proposed 2014 USGS budget priorities include studying energy resources and environmental issues; advancing water monitoring and availability research; supporting the nationwide streamgage network; improving the capacity to quickly and effectively respond to natural hazards; providing information needed to protect priority ecosystems; and enhancing climate change research that is user-focused to address specific needs of natural resource managers across the landscape.
"The USGS prides itself in providing relevant and reliable Earth science, and our range of specialized expertise makes us a leader in supporting the President's focus on research and development," said acting USGS Director Suzette Kimball. "Starting with science is the foundation for making decisions that ensure the safety of our Nation and a robust and resilient economy. The proposed budget supports programs that are unique to the USGS, ultimately enhancing understanding of our land, its resources, and potential hazards that face us."
Proposed USGS key increases are summarized below. For more detailed information on the President's proposed 2014 budget, visit the USGS Budget, Planning, and Integration website.
New Energy Frontier
To ensure a robust and secure energy future for the Nation, President Obama emphasizes an "all-of-the-above" strategy, and the USGS has an important contribution in each component of that strategy. Proposed funding increases totaling $4.0 million will support the exploration of geothermal resources on Federal lands as well as research to support mitigation of the impacts of wind energy on wildlife. A total of $18.6 million, an increase of $13.0 million, will support interagency science collaboration between the USGS, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency to understand and minimize potential adverse environmental, health, and safety impacts of shale gas development through hydraulic fracturing.
As competition for water resources grows, so does the need for better information about water quality and quantity. Funding in the 2014 proposed budget includes an increase of $7.2 million to fund more than 400 streamgages that would enhance the ability to monitor high priority sites sensitive to drought, flooding, and potential climate change effects. The budget also includes $22.5 million for WaterSMART, an initiative focused on a sustainable water strategy to address the Nation's water challenges. WaterSMART includes the combined efforts of the USGS and the Bureau of Reclamation.
In the past year, the USGS responded to hurricanes Sandy and Isaac, wildfires ravaging the West, worldwide earthquakes, historical floods, and many other natural disasters. The budget proposes $2.5 million to improve rapid disaster response, allowing the USGS to better provide timely and effective science to minimize hazard risks to populations and infrastructure. Funding support includes improvements in early warning and scenario products for earthquakes, eruptions of volcanic ash, landslides and debris flows. In addition, an increase of $1.2 million is proposed to expand seismic networks along the Central and Eastern United States and improve the suite of USGS products that provide "situational awareness" for responders to gauge earthquake impacts and plan response activities.
USGS scientists conduct research and monitoring to understand how ecosystems are structured and function, helping improve sustainable stewardship of the Nation's natural resources. The 2014 budget request includes increases totaling $16.6 million for priority ecosystem science. This includes research to control and manage invasive species, such as Asian carp in the Great Lakes and the Burmese python in the Everglades. The proposed budget includes strong support for ecosystem restoration in the California Bay Delta, Chesapeake Bay, Columbia River, Everglades, Great Lakes, Klamath River, Puget Sound, and Upper Mississippi River as well as efforts to better understand and account for ecosystem services in decisionmaking.
Climate Change Science
The FY 2014 budget request includes a total of $67.8 million for the Science for Adapting to a Changing Climate initiative that advances understanding and enhances resilience in the face of changing conditions. Funding increases for the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) and the eight DOI Climate Science Centers (CSCs) will provide applied science and tools to support adaptive and resilient management of natural resources on public and tribal lands, help facilitate coordination of climate change research across Federal agencies, and improve understanding of nationwide challenges such as sea-level rise and drought. Increases in the Climate Research and Development Program will improve understanding of current and future impacts change and needs specific to regional areas. Funding for the Biological Sequestration program in 2014 will advance methodologies and models needed to complete the national biological carbon sequestration assessment and provide science and tools for land and natural resource management.
Land Imaging Satellites
With Landsat 8 successfully launched in February, the USGS is preparing for the handover of operational responsibility from NASA and will continue to operate Landsat ground systems for receiving, processing, and disseminating the valuable imagery. The USGS will also be working with NASA to analyze user requirements and develop a successor mission to Landsat 8, with timing and configuration designed to minimize the risk of a gap in the unparalleled 41-year historical record of this data. Funding to begin work on the successor mission is provided in the 2014 budget for NASA, which will be responsible for the operation, building, and launching of Landsat-class land imaging satellites going forward, in partnership with the USGS.
Critical Minerals and Rare Earth Elements
Many existing and emerging technologies that are important to our economy and national security are generating unprecedented demand for critical minerals. Ensuring an adequate supply of critical minerals depends on learning how they form and where they are most likely to be found in the Earth's crust. An increase of $1.0 million is proposed specifically for USGS research on rare earth elements, which are a type of critical mineral. An additional $1.1 million is proposed to expand research on other high priority minerals critical to American manufacturing.
Additional Science Priorities
The 2014 budget would expand USGS youth programs and partnerships with a proposed increase for the development of a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, an element of the Youth Stewardship and America's Great Outdoors Initiatives. The budget request would support studies that address environmental impacts of uranium mining as well as emerging contaminants and pathogens. The USGS component of the Big Earth Data Initiative will support standardizing and optimizing the management of data from Earth observations systems, such as water and wildlife monitoring networks, operated by the Department of the Interior to support decisionmaking, scientific discovery, and technological innovation. Increased funding will be provided to begin implementation of the 3D Elevation program, responding to a growing need for high-quality topographic data and a wide range of other three-dimensional representations of the Nation's natural and constructed features to meet needs such as quantification of flood risk and coastal vulnerability to storms.
The proposed USGS budget for 2014 includes reductions based on careful and difficult consideration for balancing national Earth science and technology priorities and needs. Proposed reductions include mineral resources research, the Water Resource Research Institutes, the National Civil Application Program, North American Data Buy, and internal administrative costs.
Reporters: Study results will be presented at a public meeting hosted by the Verde River Basin Partnership on Thursday, April 11, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Camp Verde Multi-Use Complex Auditorium. Please contact Jennifer LaVista to reserve a seat.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. —The streamflow of the Verde River—one of Arizona's largest streams with year-round flow—declined from 1910 to 2005 as the result of human stresses, primarily groundwater pumping, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study. The study's findings suggest that streamflow reductions will continue and may increase in the future.
Water demands in the Verde Valley have increased because of the growing population in the area. Water is pumped from the ground and diverted from the Verde River to meet these needs, which has raised concerns about past, present, and future human-induced stresses on water resources.
"The results of the study emphasize our basic understanding of hydrologic systems, which is that when water is removed by being pumped through wells, it is no longer available in other parts of the system," said USGS hydrologist Bradley Garner. "This study is important because it allows us to examine human-caused stresses, namely groundwater pumping, independently from other factors that change over time, such as annual precipitation rates."
The study used the Northern Arizona Regional Groundwater Flow Model to estimate how human stresses on the hydrologic system in and around the Verde Valley affected streamflow in the Verde River from 1910 to 2005. Future conditions were also examined using three hypothetical human-stress conditions for 2005 to 2110. The computer model used by the study simulates how recharge from rainfall and snowmelt moves through the region"s aquifers and eventually provides water to streams and rivers. The full report and an accompanying USGS Fact Sheet are available online.
"Groundwater flow models provide a sophisticated tool to help communities responsibly manage, develop, and use their groundwater resources," said William M. Alley, Ph.D., Director of Science and Technology for the National Ground Water Association. "Studies that quantify movement of water between groundwater and surface water systems can help in establishing a scientific basis for new management strategies."
Like many regions in the West, the population of the Verde Valley is growing rapidly. Between 2000 and 2010, Verde Valley grew by 13 percent. Verde Valley municipalities such as Camp Verde, Clarkdale, Cottonwood, and Sedona pump groundwater to meet the needs of a growing population. In Arizona, groundwater provides about 43 percent of the State’s water supply.
Groundwater pumping has the potential to reduce flows to streams and rivers that are hydrologically connected to the underlying aquifers. Through a process known as capture, groundwater pumping can intercept groundwater that would otherwise have flowed to connected streams or draws flows from streams into the aquifer. For this reason, questions have been raised about the effects of groundwater pumping on the Verde River, which provides wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.
The newest sets of US Topo maps cover the states of Texas and New York. The 4,309 quadrangles for Texas and 972 quads covering New York replace the existing US Topo maps for those states, and will be added to the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection. All of these maps are available for free download from The National Map and the USGS Map Store website.
Last September the USGS marked the important milestone of completing the initial round of US Topo map production for the 48 contiguous states. The agency is continuing to improve the US Topo map product, moving into the next round of national map revisions. Hawaii is currently in production and Alaska production will start later this year.
"The US Topo program is a dynamic product and the new maps over Texas and New York demonstrate our commitment to a very aggressive three year revision cycle while at the same time adding new content", said Mike Cooley, the US Topo Project Manager. "I encourage you to take a look at these maps and drop us a comment on how we are doing via our drop box, as your input is important to us."
New feature additions and improvements on the updated US Topo maps include:
- Woodland tint derived from the National Land Cover Dataset
- Fire stations
- State and county boundaries
- Forest service boundaries
- Commercial roads in lieu of census roads
- Forest Service roads and road numbers
US Topos are derived from key layers of geographic data found in The National Map, which delivers visible content such as high resolution aerial photography, which was not available on older paper-based topographic maps. The new US Topo maps provide modern technical advantages that support wider and faster public distribution and on-screen geographic analysis tools for users.
Future enhancements to the US Topo are scheduled to include additional tools and map content such as a shaded relief layer, updated structures, enhanced transportation, additional federal boundaries and Forest Service trails. Wyoming, which was added in the fall of 2012, also featured Public Land Survey System (PLSS). The USGS expects to produce more than 18,500 revised quadrangles annually. US Topo maps are updated every three years.
For more information, go to: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/
WASHINGTON, DC - Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today released a report to Congress on the progress of the National Water Census, which is being developed at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to help the nation address its critical water needs.
Peak flooding on the Red River at Fargo will likely occur sometime after April 15, according to U.S. Geological Survey streamgage data and National Weather Service information.
Scientists with the USGS and NWS meteorologists are closely monitoring the Red River at Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn., in anticipation of April flooding. USGS streamgages indicate that on Wednesday, April 3 the river still had not begun its spring rise, meaning that the impending 2013 flood will be considerably later than the large floods of 2009 and 2011. The 2013 flood likely will be later than the 1997 flood, which was exacerbated by an early April blizzard.
"The large floods at Fargo that have previously occurred in April—1952, 1965, 1969, 1979, and 1997—peaked from April 15 to April 19," said Gregg Wiche, Director of the USGS North Dakota Water Science Center. "Above normal snowpack and cold March temperatures have contributed to this year’s late melt."
According to NWS preliminary data, 2013 brought the sixth coldest March since hydrologic observations began in 1900. This year also had the deepest average snow depth for the last day of March since weather records began in Fargo in the mid-1880s. The NWS ranked the month of March, 2013, as the 14th for coldest average temperature, the 12th snowiest, and the 11th wettest (including rain and melted snow) for Fargo.
The USGS compares current Red River conditions to past large floods on its Fargo flood tracking webpage.
Additional data for the USGS Red River at Fargo streamgage is available online.
NWS flood forecasts for the Red River at Fargo are available online.This chart compares current gage height of the Red River at Fargo, N.D., to floods in 1997, 2009, and 2011 at the same location. The chart is available for download.
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and Georgia water resource managers have powerful new tools at their fingertips to help make critical decisions on the timing and quantity of freshwater availability in coastal rivers.
Developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and Advanced Data Mining International, the two new decision support systems will help decision makers determine how much drinking water they will be able to pull from rivers in the face of climate change, sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion.
The user-friendly products were developed as part a new report titled Simulation of salinity intrusion along the Georgia and South Carolina coasts using climate change scenarios.
Research shows that the availability of freshwater in coastal streams will likely be affected in the future due to the combination of climate change and sea-level rise. The balance between freshwater and saltwater in coastal streams is primarily governed by the interaction between streamflow and sea level, and coastal rivers are constantly responding to changing streamflow and tidal conditions.
The decision support systems -- which include salinity simulation models, model controls, historical databases, and model output in a spreadsheet application – were created for the cities and towns on the Georgia and South Carolina coast that withdraw drinking water from the Atlantic Intracoastal Water and the Waccamaw River in South Carolina, and the Savannah River in Georgia, to predict saltwater intrusion near municipal intakes.
"Predicting the changes in the frequency of salinity intrusion event is critical for water-resource planning in the coastal region of the Southeastern United States due to the large number of municipal water-supply intakes in coastal rivers," said Paul Conrads, a USGS hydrologist and lead author of the study.
At a location just downstream from an intake that provides drinking water for Myrtle Beach area, the decision support system estimated that a 1-foot rise in sea level would increase the frequency of salinity at the intake and double the amount of time that freshwater would not be available at the intake.
"The decision support systems for the two rivers are essentially easy-to-use spreadsheets that integrate all the science, data, and models needed to perform high quality risk assessments," said Edwin Roehl, lead software developer for the project.
The study also evaluated the effect of climate-change projections from a global circulation model on change in salinity intrusion. The global circulation models predict changes in precipitation and temperature. These changes can affect streamflows to the coasts and change salinity intrusion. The results from the global circulation model projections indicates that, for one intake, the annual number of salinity intrusion events will increase and there would be a seasonal shift, with most salinity intrusion events occurring in the fall rather than the summer.
Although increases in sea-level and reductions in streamflow show substantial effects that would have operational consequence for municipal water-treatment plants, the climate change scenarios shown in the report would allow water-resource managers to plan adaptation efforts to minimize the effect of increased salinity of source water. Adaptation efforts may include timing of withdrawals during outgoing tides, increased storage of raw water, timing larger releases of regulated flows appropriately to move the saltwater-freshwater interface downstream, and the blending of higher conductance surface water with lower conductance water from an alternative source such as groundwater.
CORVALLIS, Ore.— New scientific findings published in Ecology reveal that interactions of climate, soils, shrubs, and a natural nitrogen fertilization process affect regrowth of forests following wildfire in southern Oregon and northern California. Managers can use this information to consider post-fire management practices, including fertilization and shrub-removal.
Scientists studying forests that burned in 1987 discovered an interesting pattern in a natural fertilization process. The highest levels of natural nitrogen fertilization occurred at cool, dry sites where tree growth is slow and where nitrogen for growth is needed the least. In contrast, the lowest nitrogen additions occurred at warm, moist sites where tree growth and associated nitrogen needs are greatest.
This counterintuitive result occurred because natural nitrogen fertilization by nitrogen-fixing shrubs was suppressed by competition with oaks, maples, and other vegetation where tree growth was greatest, in warm, moist sites.
Nitrogen, an essential nutrient for tree growth, often is lost during a forest fire. An important way to recover forest fertility is an ecological process called biological nitrogen fixation. Some common shrubs, like Ceanothus, form unique relationships with bacteria and convert inert nitrogen gas from the air into forms of nitrogen in the soil that the trees can use for growth. Free-living soil bacteria also fix nitrogen. This natural process is the main source of nitrogen fertility in forests.
The scientists found that the rate at which Ceanothus shrubs added nitrogen to the system could be suppressed as tree biomass increased. Even though warm, wet sites stimulated the growth of nitrogen-fixing shrubs, these conditions stimulated the growth of other plants even more. Eventually, these changes limited the recovery of nitrogen fertility in the most productive sites.
According to Stephanie Yelenik, the lead author of the study, nitrogen additions by Ceanothus shrubs and by free-living soil bacteria provided an average of 7.5 pounds of nitrogen per acre per year. Over the 22 years following the major fire when the forest’s vegetation and nitrogen burned, this added up to about 165 pounds of nitrogen per acre. Although probably insufficient to fully replace wildfire nitrogen losses on the study sites, these contributions were substantial. Yelenik was affiliated with Oregon State University at the time of the study.
"There are important related results. Biological nitrogen fixation involving Ceanothus shrubs was up to 90 times greater than contributions from free-living soil microorganisms," said USGS scientist Steve Perakis, who participated in the study. "The contribution from Ceanothus would be even greater if other plants didn't compete so strongly. So ultimately competition among different plant species governed nitrogen input in the forests studied."
"The loss of nitrogen to wildfire has always been of concern to managers; however, the enormity of this loss only recently has been quantified," said Tom Sensenig, a U.S. Forest Service ecologist. "This study not only informs managers about the importance of shrubs for restoring nitrogen, but identifies the dynamics among species and the specific processes influencing nitrogen fixation and recovery across differing sites. Principally, this new information will help in developing post-fire management options and plans for specific forest types in this region. For example, on drier lower-quality sites, Ceanothus, the most prevalent nitrogen-fixing shrub identified, could be retained to the greatest extent possible by only treating the minimal vegetation necessary to assure seedling survival. On wetter, higher-productivity sites, treating more competitive species at a higher intensity may be more effective for maximizing nitrogen recovery, while benefiting seedling survival as well."
According to Yelenik, without additional fire or other forms of disturbance, Ceanothus largely disappears from productive sites in about 30 years as the tree canopy shades out the understory vegetation. Because Ceanothus is the major player in biological nitrogen fixation, from then on, nitrogen levels may remain consistently low in sites that have the necessary temperature and moisture conditions to promote rapid tree growth. On these sites, there may be opportunities to conduct vegetation management or to allow low-severity fires to burn as a way of encouraging the presence of nitrogen-fixing shrubs in the forest understory.
The study sites were located in forested mountains of the Klamath Region. This region is prone to wildfires, and the frequency and severity of the fires shape vegetation patterns. The study occurred 20 to 22 years after fire in sites that were salvage logged in the first 2 to 3 years after fire and then planted with conifer trees. Perakis believes the results are best applied to this region, but the interactions between climate, soils, shrubs, and natural nitrogen fertilization merit study elsewhere to see if similar constraints to nitrogen fixation occur in other forests recovering from fire.
Fishes residing near oil platforms in southern California have similar contaminant levels as fishes in nearby natural sites, according to two recent reports by the U.S. Geological Survey, which were conducted to assist the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in understanding potential consequences of offshore energy development.
Since the underwater portion of many offshore oil and gas platforms often provides habitat to a large number of fishes and invertebrates, some stakeholders have called for ocean managers to consider a "rigs-to-reefs" option during the decommissioning phase of a platform. This option would maintain some of the submerged structure to function as an artificial reef after oil and gas production has ended. The findings of this study address questions regarding how the industrial legacy of this kind of artificial reef may affect local fish populations.
Scientists analyzed the amount of contaminants from crude oil exposure present in three species of fish residing at oil platforms within the Santa Barbara Channel and the San Pedro Basin in California. The amount of contaminants present in fish tissue samples at seven platform sites was compared to samples at natural nearby sites. The brand new and recent USGS reports are available online.
"As part of this study, we developed methods capable of detecting the extremely low levels of contaminants that we anticipated in these ocean fishes, especially since they avoid natural oil seeps," said USGS scientist Robert Gale. "These results will assist decision-makers in helping to protect the environment off the coast of California."
Some of the most important contaminants related to oil operations are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Several PAHs are probable human carcinogens and many are toxic to fish and other aquatic life. Scientists were able to develop a new, more accurate method of sampling small traces of PAHs that may have been ingested and broken down within the fish. Samples were taken from species thought to be most sensitive to PAH contamination. These species, including Pacific sanddab, kelp rockfish, and kelp bass, also tend to be targeted by fishermen. PAH concentrations were either very low or undetectable in all fish sampled for this study.
"These important results suggest two things," said BOEM marine biologist Donna Schroeder. "First, existing offshore oil platforms provide food and shelter to local fishes without increasing their background contaminant loads. Second, since there is no detectable PAH signal from ongoing operations, we would expect that if the State of California wanted to implement a rigs-to-reefs program, there would likely be no change, pollution-wise, in the quality of the offshore environment, which appears to be pretty good."
Scientists also looked at industrial chemicals in the Pacific sanddab species, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), flame retardants (polybrominated diphenylethers, PBDEs), and pesticides (OCPs). These contaminants were also found at low levels in all fish sampled, with no observed pattern between natural and platform habitats.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management promotes energy independence, environmental protection and economic development through responsible, science-based management of offshore conventional and renewable energy. While the agency is responsible for analyzing the potential environmental impacts of removing oil and gas platforms in federal waters, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement approves applications for decommissioning and ensures that they are conducted safely and in compliance with federal regulations. For additional information on BOEM activities, visit http://www.boem.gov/.
LAFAYETTE - Tiny sea creatures no bigger than a thumbtack are being credited for playing a key role in helping provide healthy habitats for many kinds of seafood, according to a new study by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and U.S. Geological Survey.
The little crustacean “grazers,” some resembling tiny shrimp, are critical in protecting seagrasses from overgrowth by algae, helping keep these aquatic havens healthy for native and economically important species. Crustaceans are tiny to very large shelled animals that include crab, shrimp, and lobster.
The researchers found that these plant-eating animals feast on the nuisance algae that grow on seagrass, ultimately helping maintain the seagrass that provides nurseries for seafood. The grazers also serve as food themselves for animals higher on the food chain.
Drifting seaweed, usually thought of as a nuisance, also plays a part in this process, providing an important habitat for the grazing animals that keep the seagrass clean.
“Inconspicuous creatures often play big roles in supporting productive ecosystems,” said Matt Whalen, the study’s lead author who conducted this work while at VIMS and is now at the University of California, Davis. “Think of how vital honeybees are for pollinating tree crops or what our soils would look like if we did not have earthworms. In seagrass systems, tiny grazers promote healthy seagrasses by ensuring algae is quickly consumed rather than overgrowing the seagrass. And by providing additional refuge from predators, fleshy seaweeds that drift in and out of seagrass beds can maintain larger grazer populations and enhance their positive impact on seagrass.”
USGS scientist Jim Grace, a study coauthor, emphasized that seagrass habitats are also quite beneficial to people.
“Not only do these areas serve as nurseries for commercially important fish and shellfish, such as blue crabs, red drum, and some Pacific rockfish, but they also help clean our water and buffer our coastal communities by providing shoreline protection from storms,” Grace said. “These tiny animals, by going about their daily business of grazing, are integral to keeping healthy seagrass beds healthy.”Comparison of algae fouling on eelgrass with and without grazers. Copyrighted photo courtesy of Matthew Whalen/UC Davis. Copyrighted photo courtesy of Matthew Whalen/UC Davis. (High resolution image)
In fact, the authors wrote, if not for the algal munching of these grazers, algae could blanket the seagrasses, blocking out sunlight and preventing them from photosynthesizing, which would ultimately kill the seagrasses. Seagrass declines in some areas are attributed partly to excessive nutrients in water bodies stimulating excessive algal growth on seagrasses.
“Coastal managers have been concerned for years about excess fertilizer and sediment loads that hurt seagrasses,” said J. Emmett Duffy of Virginia Institute of Marine Science and coauthor of the study. “Our results provide convincing field evidence that grazing by small animals can be just as important as good water quality in preventing nuisance algae blooms and keeping seagrass beds healthy.”
The USGS scientists involved in this study serve as members of a worldwide consortium of researchers examining the health of seagrasses. This research by Virginia Institute of Marine Science and USGS researchers is the first in a series of studies worldwide on seagrass ecosystems.
The study, “Temporal shifts in top-down versus bottom-up control of epiphytic algae in a seagrass ecosystem,” was published in the recent issue of Ecology, a journal by the Ecological Society of America.