US Geological Survey (USGS) Science Centers

Also collaborating on these NE CSC projects

Slowing the Flow for Climate Resilience (SFCR): Reducing Vulnerability to Extreme Flows and Providing Multiple Ecological Benefits in a Non-Stationary Climate

Current and future hydrologic variability is a major driver underlying large-scale management and modification of inland waters and river systems. In a climate-altered future, identifying and implementing management actions that mitigate anticipated flow regime extremes will be an important component of climate adaptation strategies. These concerns will be particularly focused on extreme flows (floods and droughts) that have ecological, social, and economic importance, and whose impacts are inversely proportion to their frequency.

One Hundred Parks and Counting: Biodiversity Findings and Outreach Impacts from a Nationwide BioBlitz

Connecting people, nature, and science is at the core of the mission of the US Department of the Interior. The National Park Service is playing a leading role in that mission in 2016 by hosting a national BioBlitz on May 20-21 that will have people nationwide recording observations of plants and animals in over 100 national parks.

Predicting the fate and impact of watershed nutrient loads as Lake Michigan's hydrodynamics shift under climate change

Climate change is shifting the hydrodynamics and temperature of both the Great Lakes and their tributary rivers.  Both hydrology and temperature may play potent roles in mediating the magnitude of watershed nutrient load and their fate upon reaching the lake.  Tributary hydrology reflects the source of water (groundwater vs surface runoff) and seasonal timing of discharge, while tributary temperature determines the density difference between river and lake water.  Similarly, mixing patterns in these massive lakes strongly influence whether tributary loads remain near the shore or become dil

Does Variation in Life History and Evolutionary Response Affect Species Vulnerability to Climate Change? Implications for Management

Climate change poses a variety of threats to biodiversity. Most efforts to assess the likely impacts of climate change on biodiversity try to rank species based on their vulnerability under changed environmental conditions. These efforts have generally not considered the ability of organisms to adjust their phenotype to the changing environment. Organisms can do this by one of two ways. First, they can undergo adaptive evolutionary change. Second, they can adjust their phenotype via non-evolutionary pathways.

An Integrated Assessment of Lake and Stream Thermal Habitat Under Climate Change

Water temperatures are warming in lakes and streams, resulting in the loss of many native fish. Given clear passage, coldwater stream fishes can take refuge upstream when larger streams become too warm. Likewise, many Midwestern lakes “thermally stratify” resulting in warmer waters on top of deeper, cooler waters. Many of these lakes are connected to threatened streams. To date, assessments of the effects of climate change on fish have mostly ignored lakes, and focused instead on streams.

Pilot Study to Evaluate Coastal Change Using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) are a new and relatively untapped resource for coastal surveying within the USGS and the scientific community, and offer a number of advantages over ground-based surveys and manned aerial systems, including the ability to rapidly deploy and efficiently collect remote sensing data and derive high-resolution elevations over variable terrain. The project is designed to provide a low-risk, low-cost means to explore the utility of UAS for coastal mapping on beaches and marshes, and develop methodology and capacity to acquire, process, and analyze data.

Characterizing Local and Rangewide Variation in Demography and Adaptive Capacity of a Forest Indicator Species

Climate change will have sweeping impacts across the northeast, yet there are key gaps in our understanding about whether species will be able to adapt to this changing environment. This project will illuminate local and region-wide changes in forest ecosystems by studying the red-backed salamander, a species that is a strong indicator of forest conditions. This study will identify habitat and forest characteristics that improve the resiliency of forest dwelling amphibians and other wildlife to climate change.

Using Scenario Planning to Inform Land and Wildlife Management: A Pilot Project for Boreal Forests in the Northeastern United States

Scenario planning is one decision support method that can help managers incorporate information about future changes in climate and other drivers into their management decisions. The development of future scenarios (of climate change, socioeconomic conditions, land use changes, and ecological responses) can help state and federal managers understand plausible ecological futures, vulnerabilities, and opportunities as a result of climate change and related stressors.

Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Climate Action Tool

The Massachusetts Wildlife Climate Action Tool is designed to inform and inspire local action to protect the Commonwealth’s natural resources in a changing climate. This Tool focuses on providing information for a range of local decision-makers, including conservation practitioners, landowners, municipal agencies, and community leaders, seeking to conduct on-the-ground climate change adaptation efforts.

With this tool, users can:

Using agent-based models to identify conservation solutions to large scale environmental variation and climate change

Effective migratory bird management and conservation requires an integrate approach at multiple spatial and temporal scales.  We are developing a spatially explicit agent-based model for dabbling ducks during spring migration.  We are modeling foraging and resting behavior at prominent spring migration stopover sites throughout the midcontinent region.  Emergent properties of the working model include spring migration stopover duration, movement distances and survival.

Incorporating Social Drivers to Optimize Conservation Practices that Address Gulf Hypoxia and Declining Wildlife Populations Impacted by Extreme Climate Events

USFWS Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) throughout the Mississippi River Basin (MRB) have identified high nutrient runoff, a major contributor to Gulf hypoxia, and declines in wildlife populations (especially grassland and riparian birds), as conservation challenges requiring collaborative action. This project will develop a spatial decision support system (DSS) to address these issues.

Avian Indicators of Climate Change Based on the North American Breeding Bird Survey

Appropriate ecological indicators of climate change can be used to measure concurrent changes in ecological systems, inform management decisions, and potentially to project the consequences of climate change. However, many of the available indicators for North American birds do not account for imperfect observation. We propose to use correlated-detection occupancy models to develop indicators from the North American Breeding Bird Survey data. The indicators will be used to test hypotheses regarding changes in range and distribution of breeding birds.

Science to Inform Management of Floodplain Conservation Lands under Non-Stationary Conditions

Recent extreme floods on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers (1993, 1995, 1997, 2007, 2010, and 2011) have motivated expansion of floodplain conservation lands. Within the state of Missouri, for example, there are more than 85,000 acres of State and Federally owned conservation lands in large-river floodplains. Floodplain lands are highly dynamic and challenging to manage. Variable exchanges of water, sediment, nutrients, and carbon between the river and the floodplain result in a diverse, productive, and ever-changing mosaics of habitat patches.

Impact of red squirrel distributional shifts on resiliency of birds in the face of climate change

Little is known about how shifting small mammal populations in response to climate change will affect the bird species that they predate.  This project is relying on historical sampling and 2014 field surveys and trapping to examine how red squirrel populations have shifted in the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire and how birds may be affected by these shifts.

Assessment of paleoclimate resources for studies of climate extremes

This project is focused on compiling existing paleo-limnological data from lakes throughout the Northeast. The goal of this project is to create an editable database of existing chronologies and proxy data. This resource can then be accessed and added to by any paleo-limnologists working in the region. Based on the existing information, researchers will be able to identify "high-reward" lakes that may be targeted for future high-resolution paleoclimate analysis and also pinpoint regions of the Northeast that may be currently lacking sufficient paleo-limnological data.

Effects of small impoundments on stream temperature regimes in the context of a changing climate

Small dams and impoundments are ubiquitous in stream networks in the northeastern and north central US.  Concerns about their effects on stream fish population connectivity and their risks to human infrastructure and safety have prompted efforts to remove many of these dams.  Dams also have  potentially significant impacts on stream thermal regimes, and as a consequence their removal may either ameliorate or exacerbate effects of increasing air temperatures.  Also, given their ubiquity, temperature modeling and monitoring efforts need to account for the effects of small impoundments for ass

Understanding Conservation Management Decisions in the Face of Sea-Level Rise Along the U.S. Atlantic Coast

This project addresses a complex local scale conservation problem: managing the impacts associated with sea level rise and coastal flooding on migratory waterbirds and their habitat.  Decisions made by a conservation manager are complicated by three elements that can be expected to occur in almost any of these management situations.  Interactions among dynamic physical and biological processes affect both waterbirds and their habitat and food resources; these processes operate at local to flyway scales and are challenging to represent and analyze.

NorEaST – Stream Temperature Web Portal Demonstration and Application

Climate change is expected to alter stream temperature and flow regimes over the coming decades, and in turn influence distributions of aquatic species in those freshwater ecosystems. To better anticipate these changes, there is a need to compile both short- and long-term stream temperature data for managers to gain an understanding of baseline conditions, historic trends, and future projections. Unfortunately, many agencies lack sufficient resources to compile, QA/QC, and make accessible stream temperature data collected through routine monitoring.

Fitting the Climate Lens to Grassland Bird Conservation: Assessing Climate Change Vulnerability Using Demographically-Informed Species Distribution Models

To develop the framework to identify demographic sensitivities and assess the vulnerability of grassland bird species to future climate change. Objectives are to (1) Develop a strong partnership among managers and researchers to understand how climate change could be accounted for in conservation and management planning for grassland birds throughout the NE CSC region. (2) Develop spatially-explicit and temporally dynamic species distribution models for a select group of grassland birds.

A Decisions Support Mapper for Conserving Stream Fish Habitats of the NE CSC Region

To integrate results of a current condition habitat assessment of stream habitats that accounts for fish response to human land use, water quality impairment, and fragmentation by dams with estimates of future stream habitats that may change with climate.  This was accomplished by 1) Characterization of the current condition of stream fish habitats throughout the NE CSC region based on responses of target fish species to a diverse set of landscape-scale disturbances; 2) Identification of stream reaches predicted to change with climate and likely to change distributions of target fish specie

Making decisions in complex landscapes: headwater stream management across multiple agencies

There is growing evidence that headwater stream ecosystems are especially vulnerable to changing climate and land use, but their conservation is challenged by the need to address the threats at a landscape scale, often through coordination with multiple management agencies and landowners. This project seeks to provide an example of cooperative landscape decision-making by addressing the conservation of headwater stream ecosystems in the face of climate change at the watershed scale.

Modeling effects of climate change on spruce-fir forest ecosystems and associated priority bird populations

Eastern spruce-fir forest ecosystems are among the most vulnerable to climate change within the continuous US. The goal of this project was to develop tools to identify refugia sites most likely to support spruce-fir forest and its associated high-priority obligate spruce-fir bird species over the long-term under projected climate change scenarios.

Circulation patterns associated with climate extremes

The variability of winter precipitation over the northeastern United States and the corresponding teleconnections with five dominant large scale modes of climate variability (Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation, AMO, North Atlantic Oscillation, NAO, Pacific-North American pattern, PNA, Pacific Decadal Oscillation, PDO, and El Niño–Southern Oscillation, ENSO) were systemically analyzed in this study.  Three leading patterns of winter precipitation were first generated by empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis.

Ecology of coastal migratory striped bass (Morone saxatalis)

Striped bass are a priority species for the Northeast LCC.  Subadult and small adult (375–475 mm total length) striped bass Morone saxatilis are abundant in northern estuaries during the spring through late fall.  However, little is known about how this important marine fish migrate among estuaries and use salt marshes as foraging areas.  This project assesses the migratory pathways of striped bass and is developing a quantitative understanding of diet and habitat use.

Stream temperatures in the Driftless Area

The Driftless Region is blessed with an exceptional coldwater fishery (native brook trout and non-native brown trout).  Based on statistical modeling, it has been predicted that over the next 50 years brook trout will virtually disappear from the region and areal extent of brown trout will decrease significantly.  However, these predictions do not account for potentially significant increases in groundwater recharge and hence in baseflow as a result of likely increases in fall through spring precipitation and potential decreases in winter frost.  Nor do they account for the fact that basefl

Effects of climate, disturbance, and management on the growth and dynamics of temperate and sub-boreal forest ecosystems within the Lake States and New England

This project is using tree-ring patterns and long-term data collections from natural and managed forests across the Lake States, New England, Intermountain West, and Black Hills to identify forest management strategies and forest conditions that have conferred the greatest levels of resistance and resilience to past stressors and their relevance in addressing future environmental change.

Downscaling of GCM output; studies of climate extremes

A statistical downscaling method (bias-correction and spatial disaggregation: BCSD) is applied to general circulation models (GCMs) from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) to generate high-resolution downscaled precipitation, maximum temperature, and minimum temperature estimates under historical and three future emission scenarios over the Northeastern United States.

Evaluating the impacts of climate change in the Connecticut River Basin

For the past four years, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) have funded a study at UMass to evaluate the impacts of climate change on the biological resources in river and to investigate how the negative impacts of reservoir regulation could be ameliorated in the face of climate change.  It is fortuitous that this study provides an excellent basis for future “watershed” type studies that may be performed by the NECSC.

Effects of hydrologic change and variability on upstream limits of stream fish distribution

Coldwater stream fishes are widely predicted to move upstream in response to warming downstream river temperatures.  However, in the process they may encounter upstream limits, which are likely to be exacerbated by increased hydrologic variability if upstream locations draining small basins switch from perennial to ephemeral flow, with important but currently unknown implications for coldwater habitat and stream fish populations.  In this project, we will look at the current determinants of upstream limitation for Eastern Brook Trout in several (8-10 large watersheds) throughout their nativ

Decision-support for headwater stream habitats

Coldwater stream habitats are at risk from climate change, but management actions, such as removing barriers to passage and restoring riparian forest canopies, can in some cases help to ameliorate negative impacts.  Our overall goal is to devise and implement decision-support tools to help managers make climate-appropriate management choices.  We are currently working on several different approaches to this problem.

Environmental Effects of Agricultural Practices, Eastern Tallgrass Prairie and Big Rivers Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) and Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC – Literature search

The purpose of the project was to conduct an extensive search for both published and ongoing research that, in general, deals with climate change and agriculture in a water quality context for the Eastern Tallgrass Prairie and Big Rivers Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) and Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC. The search was two-fold; one portion of the search dealt with an on-line literature search for published peer-reviewed articles for the time period of 2000 (sometimes slightly earlier depending on the relative degree of the publication’s relevance to the topic) to present.

A Research and Decision Support Framework to Evaluate Sea-level Rise Impacts in the Northeastern U.S.

Previous approaches to quantify coastal vulnerability to sea-level rise have had major shortcomings, including the possibility that their underlying assumptions are not uniformly valid. This project conducted a study to distinguish the differing ways that coastal areas of the northeastern U.S. will respond to sea-level rise. This information will be used to develop a scientific research and decision-support program that addresses the cross-cutting and unique problems in these areas related to climate change and sea-level rise.

A Stream Temperature Inventory Network and Decision Support Metadata Mapper - Evaluating the Resources to Understanding Climate Change Effects on Streams in New England and the Great Lakes States

Stream data for the northeastern U.S. are needed to enable managers to understand baseline conditions, historic trends, and future projections of the impacts of climate change on stream temperature and flow, and in turn on aquatic species in freshwater ecosystems. This project developed a coordinated, multi-agency regional stream temperature framework and database for New England (ME, VT, NH, CT, RI, MA) and the Great Lakes States (MN, WI, IL, MI, IN, OH, PA, NY) by building a community around the efforts of this study.

Bringing People, Data, and Models Together – Addressing Impacts of Climate Change on Stream Temperature

This study set out to answer the question: “What data and modeling frameworks are needed to provide scientists reliable, climate-informed, water temperature estimates for freshwater ecosystems that can assist watershed management decision making?”  To accomplish this, the study gathered existing stream temperature data, identified data gaps, deployed stream temperature monitoring devices, and developed and tested a stream temperature model that could be regionalized across the Northeast Climate Science Center domain.

Developing Fish Trophic Interaction Indicators of Climate Change for the Great Lakes

This project addressed regional climate change effects on aquatic food webs in the Great Lakes. Project scientists examined Lake Erie as a representative system with a high level of human impact, varying levels of food availability, seasonal hypoxia (low oxygen levels), and spatial overlap of cold- and cool-water fish guilds. In Lake Erie and in large embayments throughout the Great Lakes basin, this situation is a concern for fishery managers, as climate change may worsen oxygen levels and reduce habitat for some species.

Characterization of Spatial and Temporal Variability in Fishes in Response to Climate Change

Currently, there exists much uncertainty regarding how climate change will influence different populations or ecosystems. To improve current understanding and forecasting of population responses to climate variability, the role of variability must be considered when examining system dynamics and species interactions. This project will use an analytical framework to quantitatively estimate how variation in fish populations may respond to climate change and other important changes regionally.

Critically Evaluating Existing Methods and Supporting a Standardization of Terrestrial and Wetland Habitat Classification and Mapping that Includes Characterization of Climate Sensitive Systems

This project will facilitate coordination among the scientific community to provide a comparison of existing habitat classification and mapping products within the footprint of the Northeast Climate Science Center (NE CSC). This study will also provide an evaluation of habitat vulnerability to climate change within the region and recommendations for needed improvement in habitat mapping products for the future.

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