U.S. Geological Survey News Feed
CORVALLIS, Ore. — The first-ever estimate of how fast frogs, toads and salamanders in the United States are disappearing from their habitats reveals they are vanishing at an alarming and rapid rate.
According to the study released today in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, even the species of amphibians presumed to be relatively stable and widespread are declining. And these declines are occurring in amphibian populations everywhere, from the swamps in Louisiana and Florida to the high mountains of the Sierras and the Rockies.
The study by USGS scientists and collaborators concluded that U.S. amphibian declines may be more widespread and severe than previously realized, and that significant declines are notably occurring even in protected national parks and wildlife refuges.
"Amphibians have been a constant presence in our planet's ponds, streams, lakes and rivers for 350 million years or so, surviving countless changes that caused many other groups of animals to go extinct," said USGS Director Suzette Kimball. "This is why the findings of this study are so noteworthy; they demonstrate that the pressures amphibians now face exceed the ability of many of these survivors to cope."
On average, populations of all amphibians examined vanished from habitats at a rate of 3.7 percent each year. If the rate observed is representative and remains unchanged, these species would disappear from half of the habitats they currently occupy in about 20 years. The more threatened species, considered "Red-Listed" in an assessment by the global organization International Union for Conservation of Nature, disappeared from their studied habitats at a rate of 11.6 percent each year. If the rate observed is representative and remains unchanged, these Red-Listed species would disappear from half of the habitats they currently occupy in about six years.
"Even though these declines seem small on the surface, they are not," said USGS ecologist Michael Adams, the lead author of the study. "Small numbers build up to dramatic declines with time. We knew there was a big problem with amphibians, but these numbers are both surprising and of significant concern."
For nine years, researchers looked at the rate of change in the number of ponds, lakes and other habitat features that amphibians occupied. In lay terms, this means that scientists documented how fast clusters of amphibians are disappearing across the landscape.
In all, scientists analyzed nine years of data from 34 sites spanning 48 species. The analysis did not evaluate causes of declines.
The research was done under the auspices of the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, which studies amphibian trends and causes of decline. This unique program, known as ARMI, conducts research to address local information needs in a way that can be compared across studies to provide analyses of regional and national trends.
Brian Gratwicke, amphibian conservation biologist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, said, "This is the culmination of an incredible sampling effort and cutting-edge analysis pioneered by the USGS, but it is very bad news for amphibians. Now, more than ever, we need to confront amphibian declines in the U.S. and take actions to conserve our incredible frog and salamander biodiversity."
The study offered other surprising insights. For example, declines occurred even in lands managed for conservation of natural resources, such as national parks and national wildlife refuges.
"The declines of amphibians in these protected areas are particularly worrisome because they suggest that some stressors – such as diseases, contaminants and drought – transcend landscapes," Adams said. "The fact that amphibian declines are occurring in our most protected areas adds weight to the hypothesis that this is a global phenomenon with implications for managers of all kinds of landscapes, even protected ones."
Amphibians seem to be experiencing the worst declines documented among vertebrates, but all major groups of animals associated with freshwater are having problems, according to Adams. While habitat loss is a factor in some areas, other research suggests that things like disease, invasive species, contaminants and perhaps other unknown factors are related to declines in protected areas.
"This study," said Adams, "gives us a point of reference that will enable us to track what's happening in a way that wasn’t possible before."
The publication, Trends in amphibian occupancy in the United States, is authored by Adams, M.J., Miller, D.A., Muths, E., Corn, P.S., Campbell Grant, E.H., Bailey, L., Fellers, G.M., Fisher, R.N., Sadinski, W.J., Waddle, H., and Walls, S.C., and is available to the public.
Citizen volunteers are making significant additions to the U.S. Geological Survey's ability to provide accurate information to the public. Using crowd sourcing techniques, the USGS project known as The National Map Corps (TNMC) encourages citizen volunteers to collect manmade structure data in an effort to provide accurate and authoritative spatial map data for the National Geospatial Program’s web-based The National Map.
These structures can include schools, hospitals, post offices, police stations and other important public places along with data from other sources, the data currently being collected by volunteers become part of TNM Structures dataset which is made available to users free of charge.
In an effort to recognize the important work being done by volunteers, TNMC has created a recognition program based on the number of points a volunteer contributes. Levels of recognition are displayed in the form of icons or badges of antique catalog drawings of different and increasingly sophisticated pieces of surveying equipment. Each badge comes with a description of the item and encouragement to achieve the next level. As a volunteer attains each level, a congratulations email is sent, and the accomplishments are recognized via The National Map Twitter site (#TNMCorps) and the USGS Facebook page.
Number of points
Order of the Surveyor’s Chain
25 – 49
Society of the Steel Tape
50 – 99
100 – 199
Circle of the Surveyor’s Compass
200 – 499
Stadia Board Society
500 – 999
1000 – 1999
Order of the Surveyor’s Chain award. (Larger image) Theodolite Assemblage award. (Larger image)
Becoming a volunteer for TNMC is easy; go to The National Map Corps project site to learn more and to sign up as a volunteer. If you have access to the Internet and are willing to dedicate some time editing map data, we hope you will consider participating.
While some familiarity with the area that a volunteer chooses is helpful, you do not have to live near a particular place to contribute. The tools on TNMC website, along with ancillary information available on the Internet, are generally sufficient to edit a distant area. There are presently nineteen states available for volunteers to choose to update structures in.
See for yourself how much fun participating can be. Go to The National Map Corps home page, give it a try and before you know it you’ll be hanging out with the Pedometer Posse!
A new U.S. Geological Survey study documents that the Nation's aquifers are being drawn down at an accelerating rate.
Groundwater Depletion in the United States (1900-2008) comprehensively evaluates long-term cumulative depletion volumes in 40 separate aquifers (distinct underground water storage areas) in the United States, bringing together reliable information from previous references and from new analyses.
"Groundwater is one of the Nation's most important natural resources. It provides drinking water in both rural and urban communities. It supports irrigation and industry, sustains the flow of streams and rivers, and maintains ecosystems," said Suzette Kimball, acting USGS Director. "Because groundwater systems typically respond slowly to human actions, a long-term perspective is vital to manage this valuable resource in sustainable ways."
To outline the scale of groundwater depletion across the country, here are two startling facts drawn from the study's wealth of statistics. First, from 1900 to 2008, the Nation's aquifers, the natural stocks of water found under the land, decreased (were depleted) by more than twice the volume of water found in Lake Erie. Second, groundwater depletion in the U.S. in the years 2000-2008 can explain more than 2 percent of the observed global sea-level rise during that period.
Since 1950, the use of groundwater resources for agricultural, industrial, and municipal purposes has greatly expanded in the United States. When groundwater is withdrawn from subsurface storage faster than it is recharged by precipitation or other water sources, the result is groundwater depletion. The depletion of groundwater has many negative consequences, including land subsidence, reduced well yields, and diminished spring and stream flows.
While the rate of groundwater depletion across the country has increased markedly since about 1950, the maximum rates have occurred during the most recent period of the study (2000–2008), when the depletion rate averaged almost 25 cubic kilometers per year. For comparison, 9.2 cubic kilometers per year is the historical average calculated over the 1900–2008 timespan of the study.
One of the best known and most investigated aquifers in the U.S. is the High Plains (or Ogallala) aquifer. It underlies more than 170,000 square miles of the Nation's midsection and represents the principal source of water for irrigation and drinking in this major agricultural area. Substantial pumping of the High Plains aquifer for irrigation since the 1940s has resulted in large water-table declines that exceed 160 feet in places.
The study shows that, since 2000, depletion of the High Plains aquifer appears to be continuing at a high rate. The depletion during the last 8 years of record (2001–2008, inclusive) is about 32 percent of the cumulative depletion in this aquifer during the entire 20th century. The annual rate of depletion during this recent period averaged about 10.2 cubic kilometers, roughly 2 percent of the volume of water in Lake Erie.
- Groundwater Depletion in the United States (1900-2008)
- USGS Groundwater Information
- USGS High Plains Groundwater Availability Study
- Contribution of global groundwater depletion since 1900 to sea‐level rise (journal article)
March 2012 set records for warm temperatures that promoted early leafing and flowering across large areas of the United States. A team of scientists at the USA National Phenology Network, which is sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey, have published a study which shows that 2012 was the earliest spring over the 48 U.S. states since 1900 when systematic weather data began to be available for the entire area.
Phenology is the study of recurring plant and animal life cycle stages, especially their timing and relationships with weather and climate. Assessing the severity and impacts of such extreme climatic events, either in the past or as they happen, requires consistent indicators of variability and change that can be mapped both nationally and historically.
The USA National Phenology Network provides a suite of "spring indices" based on the accumulated warmth needed to end dormancy and initiate growth in many native and cultivated plants. These complex, evidence-based algorithms can be calculated for any weather station that records daily maximum and minimum temperatures. Spring indices are independently validated using historical observations of leafing and flowering in lilac and honeysuckle nationwide.
The historical trend of spring indices suggests that the 2012 growing season advanced as much as 20-30 days in the East and Midwest from the 1900-2012 long-term mean.
"The results of this study clearly demonstrate the great importance of long-term monitoring of natural processes. A long record allows us to identify patterns of change that we might otherwise miss," said Suzette Kimball, acting USGS Director.
Today the response of vegetation to temperature and precipitation can be readily observed across wide areas by Earth-observing satellites at intervals of only a few days. USGS scientist Julio Betancourt, a co-author of the study, noted, "Indicators such as spring indices and satellite-based evaluations of vegetation growth will become essential tools for assessing climate variability and change and their impacts."
Satellite data show that the cumulative effects of the unusually early 2012 spring were most pronounced across the Corn Belt, the western Great Lakes region, and the northeastern U.S.
The beneficial effects of spring's quick start in 2012 were subsequently offset by a late spring frost and summer drought. In fact, the unusually early spring combined with late frosts in April to produce a so-called "false spring" that damaged fruit trees across the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions.
The study appears in EOS, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union.
- USA National Phenology Network
- Vegetation Drought Response Index (VegDRI)
- USGS Climate and Land Use Change Programs
- USGS Ecosystems Programs
US Topo maps now have a crisper, cleaner design - enhancing readability of maps for online and printed use. Map symbols are easier to read over the digital aerial photograph layer whether the imagery is turned on or off. Improvements to symbol definitions (color, line thickness, line symbols, area fills), layer order, and annotation fonts are additional features of this supplemental release. Users can now adjust the transparency for some features and layers to increase visibility of multiple competing layers.
This new design is launched on new US Topo quadrangles for Kentucky (671 maps) and Tennessee (694 maps), which replace the first edition US Topo maps for those states. The replaced maps will be added to the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection and are also available for free download from The National Map and the USGS Map Store website.
"The new Kentucky and Tennessee US Topo maps demonstrate our commitment to improving the product design to meet our users’ needs", said Mark DeMulder, Director of the USGS National Geospatial Program. "I encourage you to download these maps, compare them against the previous US Topo map and drop us your comments on the US Topo map product. Your input is important to us."
Re-design enhancements and new features:
- Crisper, cleaner design improves online and printed readability while retaining the look and feel of traditional USGS topographic maps
- New functional road classification schema has been applied
- A slight screening (transparency) has been applied to some features to enhance visibility of multiple competing layers
- Updated free fonts that support diacritics
- New PDF Legend attachment
- Metadata formatted to support multiple browsers
- New shaded relief layer for enhanced view of the terrain
- Military installation boundaries, post offices and cemeteries
US Topo maps are created from geographic datasets in The National Map, and deliver 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.
For more information, go to: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/
BOZEMAN, Mont. – Warmer spring temperatures since 1980 are causing an estimated 20 percent loss of snow cover across the Rocky Mountains of western North America, according to new research from the U.S. Geological Survey.
The new study builds upon a previous USGS snowpack investigation which showed that, until the 1980s, the northern Rocky Mountains experienced large snowpacks when the central and southern Rockies experienced meager ones, and vice versa. Yet, since the 1980s, there have been simultaneous snowpack declines along the entire length of the Rocky Mountains, and unusually severe declines in the north.
The new study has teased apart and quantified the different influences of winter temperature, spring temperature, and precipitation on historic snowpack variations and trends in the region. To distinguish those varying influences, the researchers implemented a regional snow model that uses inputs of monthly temperature and precipitation data from 1895 to 2011.
"Each year we looked at temperature and precipitation variations and the amount of water contained within the snowpack as of April," said USGS scientist Greg Pederson, the lead author of the study. "Snow deficits were consistent throughout the Rockies due to the lack of precipitation during the cool seasons during the 1930s – coinciding with the Dust Bowl era. From 1980 on, warmer spring temperatures melted snowpack throughout the Rockies early, regardless of winter precipitation. The model in turn shows temperature as the major driving factor in snowpack declines over the past thirty years."
Runoff from Rocky Mountain winter snowpack accounts for 60 to 80 percent of the annual water supply for more than 70 million people living in the western U.S., and is influenced by factors such as the snowpack’s water content, known as snow water equivalent, and the timing of snowmelt.
The timing of snowmelt affects not only when water is available for crop irrigation and energy production from hydroelectric dams, but also the risk of regional floods and wildfires. Earlier and faster snowmelt could have repercussions for water supply, risk management, and ecosystem health in western watersheds.
Regional snowpack accumulation is highly sensitive to variations in both temperature and precipitation over time. Patterns and sources of these variations are difficult to discern due to complex mountain topography, the different influence of Pacific Ocean climate, like La Niña and El Niño, on winter precipitation in the northern versus southern and central Rockies, and the brevity and patchiness of detailed snow records.
In the study, the regional snow model used by Pederson and his USGS colleagues Julio Betancourt and Greg McCabe allows estimation of snow water and cover variability at different latitudes and elevations during the last century regardless of the absence of direct and long-term observations everywhere. Recent snowpack variations also were evaluated in the context of snowpack evidence from tree-rings, allowing the scientists to compare recent observations to measurements from the past 800 years.
McCabe, co-author of the study, explains that "recent springtime warming also reduced the extent of snow cover at low to middle elevations where temperature has had the greatest impact."
"Both natural variability in temperature and anthropogenic warming have contributed to the recent snowpack decline, though disentangling their influences exactly remains elusive." Betancourt said,
"Regardless of the ultimate causes, continuation of present snowpack trends in the Rocky Mountains will pose difficult challenges for watershed management and conventional water planning in the American West."
The study, "Regional patterns and proximal causes of the recent snowpack decline in the Rocky Mountains," is available from Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
WASHINGTON — Images from Landsat satellites provided free to the public by the Department of the Interior's U.S. Geological Survey were the starting points for "a new breakthrough" reported today by Time and announced on the Official Google Blog. Using its Earth Engine technology, Google has compiled decades of Landsat images into a new, interactive time-lapse experience.
"This news is the latest example of how the Department of the Interior's policy of unrestricted access and free distribution of Landsat satellite imagery to the public fosters innovation and mutual awareness of environmental conditions around the globe," said Anne Castle, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science. "The 40-year archive of Landsat images of every spot on earth is a treasure trove of scientific information that can form the basis for a myriad of useful applications by commercial enterprises, government scientists and managers, the academic community, and the public at large."
Other commercial products, such as ESRI's Change Matters, also utilize Landsat imagery, providing data for a deeper geographic understanding of the changing world.
Landsat data can assist a broad range of specialists in managing the world's food, water, forests, and other natural resources for a growing world population. The Landsat images contain many layers of data collected at different points along the visible and invisible light spectrum. Consequently, they can show where vegetation is thriving and where it is stressed, where droughts are occurring, where wildland fire is a danger, and where erosion has altered coastlines or river courses.
Landsat satellites provide a view as broad as 12,000 square miles per scene while describing land cover in pixels the size of a baseball diamond. From a distance of more than 400 miles above the earth surface, a single Landsat scene can record the condition of hundreds of thousands of acres of grassland, agricultural crops, or forests.
"With its long-term historical record of the entire globe and widely recognized high quality of data, Landsat is valued all over the world as the gold standard of land observation," said Castle.
Ready access to authoritative Landsat images provides a reliable common record of Earth conditions that advances the mutual understanding of environmental challenges by citizens, researchers, and decision makers around the globe.
USGS and NASA have distinct roles in the Landsat program. NASA develops remote-sensing instruments and spacecraft, launches satellites, and validates their performance. The USGS then assumes ownership and operation. For example, USGS will operate the newest satellite in the Landsat series – Landsat 8 – starting on May 30, 2013, following a successful launch from the Vandenberg AFB on February 11, 2013.
For More Information
- See the USGS website for more information on Landsat and to view the entire image gallery
- See today's Google Blog to learn about Google's announcement, the Google Earth Engine and how to explore the new global, zoomable time-lapse map as part of TIME Magazine's new TIMElapse project
- Read the Time Magazine article TIME and Space
- For another example of the application of Landsat imagery, go to ESRI's Change Matters
- Learn more about NASA and the Landsat Program
Disclaimer: Any use of trade, firm or product names does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made by the Department of the Interior or the U.S. Government as to the accuracy and functioning of the commercial software programs cited in this news release, and the U.S. Government shall not be held liable for improper or incorrect use of the Landsat satellite imagery and data employing these software programs.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced the members of a newly created federal advisory committee who will provide guidance about the Interior Department's climate change adaptation science initiatives.
USGS hydrologic researchers have found that the movement of nitrate through groundwater to streams can take decades to occur. This long lag time means that changes in the use of nitrogen-based fertilizer (the typical source of nitrate) — whether the change is initiation, adjustment, or cessation — may take decades to be fully observed in streams, according to a recent study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
Water quality experts have been noting in recent years that nitrate trends in streams and rivers do not match their expectations based on reduced regional use of nitrogen-based fertilizer. The long travel times of groundwater discharge, like those documented in this study, have previously been suggested as the likely factor responsible for these observations.
"This study provides direct evidence that nitrate can take decades to travel from recharge at the land surface to discharge in streams," said Jerad Bales, acting USGS Associate Director for Water. "This is an important finding because long travel times will delay direct observation of the full effect of nutrient management strategies on stream quality."
Rivers and streams are fed by both groundwater held in underground aquifers and surface water from precipitation runoff. In low streamflow conditions, groundwater sources take a larger role.
In this study, USGS scientists closely examined surface and ground waters at seven study sites from across the nation to determine the portion of stream nitrate derived from groundwater. They found that most of the nitrate observed in streams located in groundwater-dominated watersheds was derived from groundwater sources. To determine the time it takes groundwater to reach a stream in a groundwater-dominated watershed, an age dating tracer study was conducted in the Tomorrow River in central Wisconsin. The findings indicated that decades-old nitrate-laden water was currently discharging to this stream. Consequently, base flow nitrate concentrations in this stream may be sustained for decades to come, regardless of current and future practices.
The slow release of groundwater nitrate to streams may also affect the water quality of large rivers. For example, increases in nitrate concentrations during low and moderate flows in large rivers in the Mississippi River Basin have been observed to be greater than or comparable to increases in nitrate concentrations during high flows. (See USGS website, Nitrate in the Mississippi River and its tributaries, 1980 to 2008.) These findings also suggest that increasing nitrate concentrations in groundwater are having a substantial effect on nitrate concentrations in rivers and nitrate transport to the Gulf of Mexico. Because nitrate moves slowly through groundwater to rivers, the full effect of management strategies designed to reduce nitrate movement to these rivers may not be seen for many years.
"Vulnerability of Streams to Legacy Nitrate Sources"
Anthony J. Tesoriero, John H. Duff, David A. Saad, Norman E. Spahr, and David M. Wolock
Environmental Science & Technology; April 16, 2013
- USGS Circular 1350: Nutrients in the Nation's Streams and Groundwater
- Nitrate in the Mississippi River and Its Tributaries, 1980 to 2008: Are We Making Progress? (USGS)
- Article and supplemental material in Environmental Science & Technology
- Nutrient Flux for the Mississippi River Basin and Sub-basins (USGS)
AMERICA'S GREAT OUTDOORS: USGS Economic Analysis of Anacostia River Shows Potential Value of Restoring Urban Streams Nationwide
WASHINGTON, D.C.-- The U.S. Geological Survey today released an analysis of the Watts Branch of the Anacostia River in Prince Georges County, Md. and Washington, D.C. that documents how restoration work on this urban tributary has had a substantial impact on the local economy, directly or indirectly accounting for 45 jobs, $2.6 million in local labor income and $3.4 million in value added to the local D.C. metropolitan area in 2011.
"The USGS study confirms the value of re-greening our urban landscapes around the nation," said David J. Hayes, Deputy Secretary of the Interior. "Restoring one of the most degraded urban streams in the Anacostia watershed while also addressing sewage infrastructure benefited a struggling local economy, provided an improved park and green space for residents, and enhanced wildlife habitat. Restoring a stream is helping restore a community and demonstrates the power of partnerships."
The Anacostia watershed is one of the priority areas for interagency cooperation in both President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative and the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.
D.C. and federal agencies formed the Watts Branch restoration partnership in 2010 to restore a segment of one of the most urbanized watersheds in the Chesapeake Bay drainage basin. Completed in 2011, the restoration project was funded largely by the District of Columbia's Department of Environment and also carried out by the Department of the Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along with the National Park Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington Water and Sewer and several local organizations.
The partnership has addressed both environmental degradation and sewage infrastructure needs of the Watts Branch, which originates in the Capitol Heights area of Prince George's County, flowing almost 5 miles to the Anacostia, which drains to the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.
The analysis, conducted by USGS economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Elizabeth Myrick, found that restoring Watts Branch had a substantial impact on the local economy. The restoration directly accounted for 26 jobs and more than $1.5 million in local labor income including salaries, wages and benefits and $1.5 million in local value added (the contribution of expenditures to Gross Domestic Product). Moreover, the restoration indirectly supported an additional 19 jobs, providing an additional $1.1 million in labor income and $1.9 in value added to the local economy. Restoring Watts Branch contributed more than $3 million to a struggling local economy.
"This restoration project shows the fiscal and transformative power of re-greening urban areas—supporting local jobs, upgrading infrastructure, and helping improve the local economy," said Hayes, noting that the Watts study is one of a number of case studies on the impact of restoration projects in other parts of the country. "With a roughly $2 trillion backlog in infrastructure needs nationwide, our country has a tremendous opportunity to advance both economic and environmental goals through other restoration projects."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners not only restored the eroded stream channel, which was depositing nearly 1,500 tons of sediment into the Anacostia watershed each year, but also relocated and improved sewer lines to address and prevent future sewage leaks. Infrastructure and environmental restoration improved water quality, increased floodplain storage, reduced erosion and improved in-stream habitat to support fish like American eel, alewife and American shad. Local residents regained a beautiful urban stream, and habitat along the stream also improved for birds such as warblers, barred owls and great blue herons, to name just a few.
Moreover, local communities have seen utility and street upgrades. A local nonprofit, Washington Parks and People, has begun using Watts Branch as an outdoor classroom to prepare an emerging workforce for jobs in urban and community forestry.
"The Watt's Branch restoration turned a degraded stream into an urban sanctuary within an underserved community," the analysis concluded.
President Obama's America’s Great Outdoors Initiative is a conservation agenda for the 21st century. It underscores how urban parks and community green spaces can contribute to the social, physical, economic and emotional health of America's communities. The Anacostia is one of the priority areas chosen under America’s Great Outdoors.
The Anacostia River Watershed also is one of the original pilot project areas of the interagency Urban Waters Federal Partnership led by EPA. Through this partnership, the Interior Department and 10 other federal departments work to reconnect urban areas—particularly those that are overburdened or economically distressed—with their waterways through improved collaboration.
Android and iPhone users can now use their mobile devices as digital topo maps, leveraging USGS maps together with the power of GPS to zoom in on their precise location while hiking, biking, running, or any other activity that benefits from precision navigation. The type of data that are available includes USGS imagery and topographic maps from The National Map, as well as road and contour layers.
Currently, two Android applications are using USGS data, OruxMaps (http://www.oruxmaps.com/index_en.html) and AlpineQuest (http://alpinequest.psyberia.net/). These apps include USGS services in the list of available online maps.
For users that may be navigating in an area that is outside of cell phone coverage, Mobile Atlas Creator (http://mobac.sourceforge.net/) is allowing users of this desktop application to build small "mobile atlases" with USGS data. These "mobile atlases" can be built over any area of interest at multiple scales, and when completed, the small file is moved to the phone. The "mobile atlases" enable GPS applications on both iPhone and Android mobile devices. By storing this small amount of data on the phone, these "mobile atlases" ensure the topographic data is available even when cell coverage is not.
Users of mobile devices can use USGS data on their GPS-enabled phones to track their adventure or workout. This capability is new, and promises to increase awareness and use of USGS data and services, as well as increase demand for US Topos.
To use TNM data on your Android device:
- Install either OruxMaps or AlpineQuest via Google Play App Store.
- USGS TNM data is available through these two applications as a dynamic, online layer.
- Switch map sources to view either TNM Topo or Satellite data through the application.
- OruxMaps manual available online in PDF format.
- More information on Alpine Quest is available online.
To use TNM data on your iOS device:
- Install Galileo on your iPhone or iPad via iTunes App Store.
- Build offline map file(s) on MOBAC (instructions below).
- Move files to iPad or iPhone.
To build map files that will allow an Android or iPhone to use USGS TNM data when data connectivity is not available:
- Download the MOBAC desktop application (Mobile Atlas Builder).
- Unzip the downloaded file, and activate the "Mobile Atlas Creator.exe" file.
- Users can then indicate the mobile application they are using (Galileo, AlpineQuest, etc) , and highlight an area of interest to build an offline map file.
- Select the appropriate scales.
- Select "Create Atlas", and move resulting folder (and map data) to the appropriate folder on the mobile phone.
- More information on using MOBAC is available through the "Quick Start Manual".
The USGS National Geospatial Technical Operations Center (NGTOC) is continuing to work with mobile developers, to ensure our data are available to the public.
Disclaimer: Any use of trade, firm or product names does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made by the USGS or the U.S. Government as to the accuracy and functioning of the commercial software programs cited in this Technical Announcement, and the U.S. Government shall not be held liable for improper or incorrect use of the USGS National Map Topographic Data employing these software programs.USGS TNM Topographic Data as viewed in AlpineQuest. (Larger image) USGS TNM Topographic Data as viewed in OruxMaps. (Larger image) Mobile Atlas Creator (MOBAC) about to create a USGS TNM Topographic "atlas" of various scales. (Larger image)
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) today released an updated oil and gas resource assessment for the Bakken Formation and a new assessment for the Three Forks Formation in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.
The report and maps are available online.
AUGUSTA, Maine – More than 800 acres of uplands in and near Acadia National Park will likely be flooded by the ocean if sea level rises 2 feet during this century, leaving 75 percent of the saltwater marshes along this part of central Maine's rugged coast with very little upland area to migrate into, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study and maps.
If plant material and sediments can accumulate in Maine's salt marshes fast enough to keep pace with sea-level rise, the uplands could provide areas for new salt marsh habitat. But that would require faster accumulation rates than those observed in the last century.
"The precise amount of sea-level rise that we should expect this century is not known," said USGS scientist Martha Nielsen, who led the study. "This report and maps are intended to inform decision makers with science to assist in planning for an uncertain future. By identifying the uplands that could support new salt marshes ahead of time, we hope to aid land management and preservation efforts to sustain marsh ecosystems in the area."
The study, done in cooperation with the National Park Service, identified more than 40 potential barriers that, in addition to rugged topography, would further restrict inland migration of some marshes. The barriers are mostly roads that limit water and sediment movement. This study is intended to help managers proactively plan for mitigation of those barriers.
Salt marshes provide significant ecological value and aesthetic beauty to Maine's coasts. Their ecological functions include nursery and breeding habitat for many fish, shellfish, and wildlife species; storm, flood, and erosion protection; organic-matter production that feeds many commercially and recreationally valuable species; and filtration for sediments and contaminants.
The study area included all coastal areas in Maine from the eastern half of Penobscot Bay to the eastern edge of the Schoodic Peninsula. The 114 saltwater marshes included in the study range in size from larger than half an acre, up to 128 acres.
The analysis was based on high-resolution elevation data collected for coastal New England in 2010 with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funding. The data were independently assessed for accuracy, and the maps show the expected inundation around each marsh to a 95 percent confidence interval. The manmade barriers to migration identified in the study are also shown.
Reporters: Do you want to accompany field crews as they tag yellow perch on Lake Erie during the week of April 29th? Please contact Holly Muir at 734-214-9318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sandusky, Ohio – With help from local anglers and fishermen, the U.S. Geological Survey and Ohio Department of Natural Resources will kick-start a five-year collaborative fish-tagging effort this week to better understand movement of yellow perch across Lake Erie.
Biologists are tagging adult yellow perch with tiny devices called Passive Integrated Transponders, or PIT tags, to track fish migration, and are asking for assistance from anglers and commercial fishermen to make fish available for scanning. Throughout the spring, summer, and fall fishing seasons, the USGS and ODNR biologists will frequent recreational access points, such as boat ramps and fish-cleaning stations, in order to interview anglers and scan fish. Commercial fishermen will be contacted based on the real-time information they provide to the ODNR catch reporting system.
"We are excited to be working with the ODNR to enhance scientific information on fish movement patterns," said Dr. Richard Kraus, chief of the USGS Lake Erie Biological Station. "Our Canadian partners in the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources are also tagging yellow perch with PIT tags, so there will be mutual benefits for both countries with the potential to detect north-south movements."
PIT tags are a miniaturized version of the electronic toll-collection technology used on turnpikes. Each tag is about the size of a grain of rice and is uniquely coded per specific fish. It is placed in an inedible portion of the fish, so it does not affect the ability of the fish to be eaten. The scanning process only takes several seconds per cooler or 100-pound fish box, which hold 300-400 fish each. The angler interviews, or creel surveys, are critical to collecting data because it is impossible to tell if a fish is tagged without scanning it.
Tagging will occur from the ODNR’s 43-foot Research Vessel Grandon with other small agency vessels assisting the Grandon during the effort.
"The ODNR is pleased to be pursuing this collaborative research project with USGS, the Lake Erie Committee agencies, and stakeholder groups," said Jeff Tyson, ODNR, administrator for the Division of Wildlife Lake Erie Program. "Movement patterns of yellow perch have been identified as an information gap by resource management agencies and stakeholder groups, and this research will help the Lake Erie Committee agencies responsibly manage the valuable Lake Erie yellow perch resources."
This work is funded through the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act and administered through the ODNR, Division of Wildlife. The Sport Fish Restoration Program was created to restore and better manage fishery resources with funds originating from excise taxes on fishing equipment, motorboat, and small engine fuels.
Additional Contact: Kristen Hart, Mobile Phone: 954-650-0336
DRY TORTUGAS, Fla. – Nesting green sea turtles are benefiting from marine protected areas by using habitats found within their boundaries, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study that is the first to track the federally protected turtles in Dry Tortugas National Park.
Green turtles are listed as endangered in Florida and threatened throughout the rest of their range, and the habits of green sea turtles after their forays to nest on beaches in the Southeast U.S. have long remained a mystery. Until now, it was not clear whether the turtles made use of existing protected areas, and few details were available as to whether they were suited for supporting the green sea turtle’s survival.
U.S. Geological Survey researchers confirmed the turtles' use of the protected areas by tracking nesting turtles with satellite tags and analyzing their movement patterns after they left beaches.
"Our goal was to better understand what types of habitats they used at sea and whether they were in fact putting these designated areas to use. This study not only shows managers that these designated protected areas are already being used by turtles, but provides insight into the types of habitats they use most," said the study’s lead author, Kristen Hart, who works as a research ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey.
Hart's team made the discovery by fitting green sea turtle mothers with satellite tags after they came onto beaches within Dry Tortugas National Park to nest. After tracking their movements and analyzing their time at sea, the team located the areas turtles used between their nesting events and determined where turtles traveled after the nesting season was over.
They found green sea turtles spending much of their time in protected sites within both Dry Tortugas National Park and the surrounding areas of the Florida Keys Marine National Sanctuary.
"We were thrilled to find that these turtles used some areas already under 'protected' status. The ultimate goal is to help managers understand where these endangered turtles are spending their time both during the breeding period and then when they are at feeding areas. Given that worldwide declines in seagrasses – one of the most important habitats they rely on for food – has already been documented, this type of data is critical for managers," said Hart.
The team learned about the turtle's habitat needs during the nesting season by using ATRIS, a georeferenced, underwater camera system developed by the USGS to collect over 195,000 seafloor images. Researchers surveyed the areas frequented by turtles within Dry Tortugas National Park by photographing the seafloor in a series of parallel lines totaling 70 kilometers (over 43 miles). Using a habitat map derived from those images, they found that the turtles most commonly used shallow seagrass beds and degraded coral reefs that have been overgrown by a mixed assemblage of other organisms, such as sea fans, sponges, and fire coral.
"Our synergistic approach of combining satellite telemetry data with an extensive habitat map proved to be an effective way to find out exactly what habitats these nesting turtles were using in the Park," said Dave Zawada, a USGS research oceanographer and co-author on the study.
The Dry Tortugas' population made shorter migrations than that typically seen among other green turtle populations around the world; this was only the second published study showing green turtles taking up residence at feeding grounds located quite near their breeding grounds.
"We hope to keep pushing the frontier of what is known about in-water sea turtle habitat use, as this type of scientific information is vital for understanding whether conservation measures are effective," said Hart.
The study, "Habitat use of breeding green turtles Chelonia mydas tagged in Dry Tortugas National Park: Making use of local and regional MPAs," was published this week in the journal Biological Conservation.
About Green Sea Turtles
Although their young feed on jellyfish and other invertebrates, adult green sea turtles feed on seagrasses and algae, making them the only herbivorous (vegetarian) species of sea turtle. In fact, their name comes from their greenish colored fat, which is thought to be caused by their diet.
Green sea turtles are found around the world in three main types of habitat: nesting beaches, open ocean, and shallow water such as lagoons and shoals where they feed on marine grasses and algae found on the seafloor (‘benthic’ habitat). Within the U.S., green sea turtles are found from North Carolina to Florida, Hawaii, and the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Their breeding populations in Florida are listed as endangered, but all other populations are listed as threatened.
The nesting season for green turtles lasts throughout the summer, but is most concentrated in June and July. During nesting season, females nest at roughly two-week intervals, producing an average of five nests or "clutches." Each clutch contains an average of 135 eggs, which will hatch after incubating for about 2 months.
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.