Water Quality

Accessibility


| Share

USGS

USGS Increases Public Access to Scientific Research

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Feb 08, 2016.

Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey is implementing new measures that will improve public access to USGS-funded science as detailed in its new public access plan. The plan enables the USGS to expand  its current on-line gateways to provide free public access to scholarly research and supporting data produced in full or in part with USGS funding, no matter how it is published.

Contact Information:

Diane Noserale ( Phone: 703-648-4333 ); Keith  Kirk ( Phone: 831-335-4276 );




The U.S. Geological Survey is implementing new measures that will improve public access to USGS-funded science as detailed in its new public access plan. The plan enables the USGS to expand  its current on-line gateways to provide free public access to scholarly research and supporting data produced in full or in part with USGS funding, no matter how it is published.

The USGS plan  “Public Access to Results of Federally Funded Research at the U.S. Geological Survey: Scholarly Publications and Digital Data,” stipulates that, beginning October 1, the USGS will require that any research it funds be released from the publisher and  available free to the public no later than 12 months after initial publication. The USGS will also require that data used to support the findings be available free to the public when the associated study is published.

The plan applies to research papers and data authored or co-authored by USGS, contract employees, award or grant recipients, partners and other entities. It includes materials published by any non-USGS entity, including scientific journals, professional society volumes, cooperating agency series, and university or commercial publishers.

Cover of publication for Public Access to Results of Federally Funded Research at the U.S. Geological Survey: Scholarly Publications and Digital DataExceptions are permitted only if the USGS agrees that a demonstrated circumstance restricts the data from public release, for example in rare cases where access must be restricted because of security, privacy, confidentiality, or other constraints.

The plan responds to a February 2013 Office of Science and Technology Policy memorandum that directed federal agencies with annual research and development budgets above $100 million to increase public access to peer-reviewed scientific publications and digital data resulting from federally funded research. On January 8, OSTP approved the USGS plan.

Specifically, this plan requires that an electronic copy of either the accepted manuscript or the final publication of record is available through the USGS Publications Warehouse. Digital data will be available in machine readable form from the USGS Science Data Catalog. The plan will require the inclusion of data management plans in all new research proposals and grants.

Much of the plan refers to requirements or activities that already exist or are being implemented. The mandate to publish data and findings from USGS science activities dates to the Bureau's creation by the signing of the Sundry Civil Bill on March 3, 1879, establishing the USGS. This bill also defined the requirement to report the results of investigations by the USGS to the public.  

The results of USGS research, generally released in the form of publications, maps, data, and models, are used by policymakers at all levels of government and by the private sector to support appropriate decisions about how to respond to natural hazards, manage natural resources, and to spur innovation and economic growth.

This plan builds on existing USGS policy, which requires public access be provided for any scholarly publications and associated data that arise from research conducted directly by USGS or by others using USGS funding, is published by the USGS or externally by USGS scientists or USGS funded scientists. This existing policy requires that data must be made available at the time of publication to support scholarly conclusions.

USGS already has the portals it needs to implement public access. USGS scholarly publications and associated data are discoverable online. Currently, citations for the more than 50,000 USGS series publications are available, and 10,000 of these are also available free to the public as downloadable digital files. In addition, more than 41,000 scholarly publications authored by the USGS but published externally are cataloged in the Publications Warehouse, and links to original published sources are provided. 

Global Earthquake Numbers on Par for 2015

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Feb 01, 2016.

Summary: Globally there were 14,588 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or greater in 2015.  This worldwide number is on par with prior year averages of about 40 earthquakes per day of magnitude 4.0, or about 14,500 annually.  The 2015 number may change slightly as the final results are completed by seismic analysts at the USGS National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado.

Contact Information:

Heidi  Koontz ( Phone: 303-202-4763 );




Globally there were 14,588 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or greater in 2015.  This worldwide number is on par with prior year averages of about 40 earthquakes per day of magnitude 4.0, or about 14,500 annually.  The 2015 number may change slightly as the final results are completed by seismic analysts at the USGS National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado.

In 2015, there were 19 earthquakes worldwide with a magnitude of 7.0 or higher. Since about 1900, the average has been about 18 earthquakes per year.

Earthquakes caused 9,612 deaths worldwide in 2015, a significant increase compared to 664 deaths in 2014. The majority of these fatalities – 8,964 people as reported by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – are attributed to the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that occurred on April 25 in Nepal. This was followed by another deadly earthquake with magnitude 7.3 on May 12 that killed an additional 218 people in Nepal. Deadly quakes also occurred in Afghanistan, Malaysia and Chile.

The biggest earthquake in the United States, a magnitude 6.9 southwest of Umnak Island, Alaska, occurred on July 27. This occurred in a remote location so there was no damage.  In the central United States, seismicity continued to increase, with 32 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 and greater in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas in 2015 compared to 17 in 2014. Moderate earthquakes also occurred in Nevada and Arizona. A magnitude 5.0 east of Challis, Idaho, hit on January 3. In the United States, there were no fatalities caused by earthquakes.

The USGS monitors earthquakes around the world, responds rapidly to events of magnitude 5.0 or greater and for the final catalogs publishes earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.0 or greater. In the United States, earthquakes with magnitude 2.5 or greater are published.

To monitor earthquakes worldwide, the USGS NEIC receives data in real-time from about 1,800 stations in more than 90 countries. These stations include the 150-station Global Seismographic Network, which is jointly supported by the USGS and the National Science Foundation and operated by the USGS in partnership with the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology consortium of universities. Domestically, the USGS partners with 11 regional seismic networks operated by universities that provide detailed coverage for the areas of the country with the highest seismic risk.

Real-time information about earthquakes around the world can be found at earthquake.usgs.gov. Visit the USGS Significant Earthquakes Archive to see the complete list of notable earthquakes from 2015 and previous years. Read about other natural disasters that occurred in 2015 here.

More than 143 million residents living in the 48 contiguous states may potentially be exposed to damaging ground shaking from earthquakes. When the people living in the earthquake-prone areas of Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories are added, this number rises to nearly half of all Americans. The USGS and its partners in the multi-agency National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program are continually working to improve earthquake monitoring and reporting capabilities via the USGS Advanced National Seismic System

Process Changes for Reporting Sightings of Asian Carp, other Non-Native Aquatic Species

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Jan 28, 2016.

Summary: Boaters, swimmers or other members of the public who see Lionfish, Asian carp, Zebra mussels or any other invasive or non-native plant or animal species have two options to report sightings.   

USGS and State Agencies Collecting Information

Contact Information:

Pam  Fuller ( Phone: 352-264-3481 ); Gabrielle  Bodin ( Phone: 337-266-8655 );




Boaters, swimmers or other members of the public who see Lionfish, Asian carp, Zebra mussels or any other invasive or non-native plant or animal species have two options to report sightings.   

Sightings nationwide should now be reported online to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program, called the NAS, or directly to state government natural resource agencies

The public has been able to report sightings to the USGS and state agencies for some time, but with the discontinuation of a federal reporting Aquatic Nuisance Species hotline late last year researchers are trying to get the word out on the updated reporting system and the continued importance of reporting sightings.

“Sixty-seven percent of the invasive species alerts in the past five years have been based on information reported by the public,” said Pam Fuller, a fish biologist with USGS and the leader of the NAS Program. “We rely on the public to gather much of our data on aquatic invasive species. We depend on them to be our ‘early detectors.’ When you combine the information we receive from reported sightings with information we pull from other sources, we’re able to provide a national picture of species distribution.”

For 19 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force operated a 24-hour phone hotline available to report sightings. In recent years, the line was seldom used, with sightings being more often than not reported via email, prompting the change in process. Scientists say reporting sightings is still very important, and very easy.

“New occurrences of non-native aquatic species are occurring more frequently than people think,” said Fuller. “In the past 12 months, we’ve seen 110 new occurrences. This includes both new species, as well as species we’ve already seen that are just in new locations. Identifying where these species are being seen can help us predict which regions may be susceptible to invasion, and can help prioritize management needs.”

The nearly four-decade old NAS database monitors, analyzes, and records non-native aquatic animals, including mussels, snails, crayfish, turtles, frogs, and fish, and now, aquatic plants, to give a more comprehensive understanding of the occurrence of non-native and invasive species in the United States. The database is freely accessible to the public, allowing users to view current distributions, search for particular regions and species, and report sightings of non-native and invasive aquatic species. Information from the data is used to generate scientific reports, real-time online queries, spatial data sets, regional contact lists, fact sheets and occurrence alerts.

In 2004, an alert function was added to the system to send out alerts to users anytime a new species was introduced into an area. The system offers timely information to environmental managers to help them prioritize and initiate monitoring and management actions.  

The NAS program monitors nonindigenous species, also known as non-native species or species not historically found in an area, as well as invasive species. A non-native species is not necessarily invasive; however, once a population is able to sustain itself it is considered invasive.  

The NAS program works with state and federal natural resource agencies to gather information on non-native and invasive aquatic species, and works with other partners to develop tools, including integrated reporting and filtered website views.

“There have been numerous instances when a species was reported to us and we notified the state biologists who went out to investigate,” said Fuller. “Sometimes the reports turn out to be new introductions, and sometimes they are misidentifications. But when in doubt – report it.”

To report the sighting of an invasive or non-native aquatic species, please visit: www.usgs.gov/stopans

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

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Jan 28, 2016.

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

Contact Information:

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Heartland Maps for the New Year

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Jan 26, 2016.

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

Updated US Topo maps for Iowa and Kansas released; add Census Bureau road data and PLSS

Contact Information:

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016 Des Moines SE US Topo quad. 2016 Des Moines SE US Topo quad with orthoimage

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

 

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

 

1905 legacy topo map of greater Des Moines  

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

 

Invasive Amphibian Fungus Could Threaten US Salamander Populations

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Jan 20, 2016.

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

USGS Identifies Research and Management Actions

Contact Information:

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




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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Bsal was first identified in 2013 as the cause of mass wild salamander die-offs in the Netherlands and Belgium. Captive salamander die-offs due to Bsal have occurred in the United Kingdom and Germany. Scientists believe Bsal originated in Asia and spread to wild European populations through the import and export of salamanders.

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

Key findings in the report include:

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

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

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

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

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

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Jan 19, 2016.

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

Contact Information:

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bats flying in a Texas evening sky. Brown bats hanging from a cave ceiling.

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

 

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

 

A wind turbine near a forest Hoary bat hanging on a branch.
Wind Turbines — Two wind turbines from the side on a clear day. Photo credit: Paul Cryan, USGS.

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

 

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

Biodiversity Critical to Maintaining Healthy Ecosystems

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Jan 15, 2016.

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

Contact Information:

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manmade Mercury Emissions Decline 30 Percent from 1990-2010

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Jan 13, 2016.

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

Results show local and regional efforts can have significant effects on atmospheric mercury

Contact Information:

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program provides objective scientific information on environmental contamination to improve characterization and management of contaminated sites, to protect human and environmental health, and to reduce potential future contamination problems. As part of that research, USGS provides information on mercury sources; mercury cycling in the atmosphere, land surface, lakes, streams and oceans; and bioaccumulation and toxicity of mercury. This information helps land and resource managers understand and reduce mercury hazards to people and wildlife.

First Ever Digital Geologic Map of Alaska Published

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Jan 05, 2016.

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

Contact Information:

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Jan 04, 2016.

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

Contact Information:

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Badger State Maps Put TIGER in the Tank

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Dec 29, 2015.

Summary: The USGS US Topo map program has entered its third, three-year cycle of revising and updating the digital US Topo maps

Updated US Topo maps for Wisconsin add Census Bureau road data

Contact Information:

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Normal Weather Drives Salt Marsh Erosion

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Dec 21, 2015.

Summary: For salt marshes, hurricanes are just another day at the beach

Waves from moderate storms, rather than violent events such as hurricanes, inflict the most loss on coastal wetlands.

Contact Information:

Neil  Ganju ( Phone: 508-457-2252 ); Kira Jastive ( Phone: 617-358-1240 ); Hannah Hamilton ( Phone: 703-648-4356 );




For salt marshes, hurricanes are just another day at the beach.

These coastal wetlands are in retreat in many locations around the globe—raising deep concerns about damage to the wildlife that the marshes nourish and the loss of their ability to protect against violent storms. The biggest cause of their erosion is waves driven by moderate storms, not occasional major events such as Hurricane Sandy, researchers from Boston University and the United States Geological Survey now have shown.

“Waves are very powerful because they attack the marsh in its weakest part,” says Nicoletta Leonardi, a Ph.D. candidate at BU’s Department of Earth & Environment and lead author on a paper published today in the journal PNAS. “Generally, the more a salt marsh is exposed to waves, the faster it is eroding.”

Analyzing eight salt marsh locations in Australia, Italy and the United States, “we found that the behavior of salt marshes is very predictable,” says Leonardi, with a constant relationship between wave energy and the speed of marsh erosion.

In fact, the work shows that hurricanes and other violent storms contribute less than 1 percent of salt marsh deterioration in those marshes, says Sergio Fagherazzi, BU Earth & Environment associate professor and co-author on the paper.

Along the New England coast, for example, the moderate northeast storms that may hit every few months strip away far more from the marshes than the hurricanes that may sweep through a few times a decade. “Salt marshes survive for thousands of years, which means they know how to cope against hurricane waves,” he says.

In a major storm, “beaches or dunes on a beach just collapse all at once,” Fagherazzi adds. “Marshes don’t, which is a major advantage if you are serious about using them for hazard mitigation and coast protection.”

“While hurricanes are catastrophic events, the salt marsh doesn’t respond catastrophically,” says Neil Kamal Ganju, a co-author and research oceanographer with USGS in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. In addition to the infrequency of hurricanes, that may be because a hurricane’s surge brings up water level so high over a marsh that waves have relatively little effect, he suggests.

Improved knowledge about salt marsh erosion brings an important new tool to those responsible for management and restoration of wetlands. “You can take the geography of a salt marsh and the estuary around it, and if you understand the wind climate and the wave climate, using historical data, you now can predict the marsh erosion,” says Ganju.

Globally, salt marshes are being lost to waves, changes in land use, higher sea levels, loss of sediment from upstream dams and other factors. This puts at risk “a lot of ecosystem services that we need to preserve,” Leonardi emphasizes. Many initiatives around the world now seek to protect and rebuild salt marshes. Evidence also suggests that, at least in some coastal environments, marshes can adapt to rising sea levels.

In the United States, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and many cities want to manage salt marshes as “living shorelines” that act as buffers between coastal communities and the ocean, Fagherazzi says. Such efforts kicked off in New Jersey and New York after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and around New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The effect of waves on salt marsh erosion, part of a USGS project to examine the response of estuaries to Hurricane Sandy, is being integrated into a USGS numerical model called COAWST (Coupled-Ocean-Atmosphere-Wave-Sediment Transport). COAWST combines models of ocean, atmosphere, waves and sediment transport for analysis of coastal change.

Better understanding of marsh erosion also may help in modeling carbon storage as it relates to climate change, the scientists say.

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research.  With more than 33,000 students, it is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States.  BU consists of 17 schools and colleges, along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes integral to the University’s research and teaching mission.  In 2012, BU joined the Association of American Universities (AAU), a consortium of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada.

Carbon in Water must be Accounted for in Projections of Future Climate

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Dec 21, 2015.

Summary: USGS scientists have documented that the carbon that moves through or accumulates in lakes, rivers, and streams has not been adequately incorporated into current models of carbon cycling used to track and project climate change

Contact Information:

Jon Campbell ( Phone: 571-230-6831 ); Rob Striegl ( Phone: 720 539-1282 );




Aerial view of Beaver Creek, Alaska showing a river flowing through.
Aerial view of Beaver Creek, Alaska. Credit: Mark Dornblaser, USGS. (high resolution image)

USGS scientists have documented that the carbon that moves through or accumulates in lakes, rivers, and streams has not been adequately incorporated into current models of carbon cycling used to track and project climate change. The research, conducted in partnership with the University of Washington, has been published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Earth’s carbon cycle is determined by physical, chemical, and biological processes that occur in and among the atmosphere (carbon dioxide and methane), the biosphere (living and dead things), and the geosphere (soil, rocks, and water). Understanding how these processes interact globally and projecting their future effects on climate requires complex computer models that track carbon at regional and continental scales, commonly known as Terrestrial Biosphere Models (TBMs).

Current estimates of the accumulation of carbon in natural environments indicate that forest and other terrestrial ecosystems have annual net gains in storing carbon — a beneficial effect for reducing greenhouse gases. However, even though all of life and most processes involving carbon movement or transformation require water, TBMs have not conventionally included aquatic ecosystems — lakes, reservoirs, streams, and rivers — in their calculations. Once inland waters are included in carbon cycle models, the nationwide importance of aquatic ecosystems in the carbon cycle is evident.

Speaking quantifiably, inland water ecosystems in the conterminous U.S. transport or store more than 220 billion pounds of carbon (100 Tg-C) annually to coastal regions, the atmosphere, and the sediments of lakes and reservoirs. Comparing the results of this study to the output of a suite of standard TBMs, the authors suggest that, within the current modelling framework, carbon storage by forests, other plants, and soils (in scientific terms: Net Ecosystem Production, when defined as terrestrial only) may be over-estimated by as much as 27 percent. 

The study highlights the need for additional research to accurately determine the sources of aquatic carbon and to reconcile the exchange of carbon between terrestrial and aquatic environments. 

USGS Estimates 53 Trillion Cubic Feet of Gas Resources in Barnett Shale

By OC_Web@usgs.gov (Office of Communications and Publishing) from USGS Newsroom. Published on Dec 17, 2015.

Summary: The Barnett Shale contains estimated mean volumes of 53 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas, 172 million barrels of shale oil and 176 million barrels of natural gas liquids, according to an updated assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey

This estimate is double the 2003 USGS assessment of the Barnett

Contact Information:

Kristen  Marra ( Phone: 303-236-7756 ); Alex Demas ( Phone: 571-335-6535 );




The Barnett Shale contains estimated mean volumes of 53 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas, 172 million barrels of shale oil and 176 million barrels of natural gas liquids, according to an updated assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey. This estimate is for undiscovered, technically recoverable resources.

The previous USGS assessment of the Barnett Shale, which is located in Texas, was released in 2003 as part of an assessment of conventional and unconventional (continuous) reservoirs of the Bend Arch-Fort Worth Basin Province. That assessment estimated a mean of 26.2 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas and 1.0 billion barrels of undiscovered natural gas liquids within the Barnett Shale. Potential oil resources were not quantitatively assessed for the Barnett at that time.

“We decided to reassess the Barnett Shale following the successful introduction of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, setting the stage for the current shale gas boom,” said USGS scientist Kristen Marra, who led the assessment. “In addition, the newly revised assessment incorporates estimates for both gas and oil resources within the Barnett.”

The substantial increase in potential resources is largely due to the oil and gas industry’s switch to primarily horizontal drilling within the Barnett, paired with hydraulic fracturing. The 2003 USGS assessment relied solely on vertical drilling. Since 2003, more than 16,000 horizontal wells have been drilled into the formation. Those wells have helped produce more than 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 59 million barrels of oil in the Barnett since the 2003 assessment.

The Barnett Shale is a significant source of potential natural gas resources. For comparison, in 2011, USGS estimated that the Marcellus Shale contained a mean of 84 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas. The Marcellus has helped fuel the shale gas boom in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Horizontal drilling is the practice of angling the well bore to travel along the rock layer, instead of drilling vertically through the formation. It is often paired with the practice of hydraulic fracturing to develop continuous oil and gas.

The Barnett Shale is not the only formation that USGS has reassessed as technology and geologic understanding have advanced. In 2013, USGS released an updated assessment of the Bakken Formation in North Dakota, and the 2011 assessment of the Marcellus Shale was itself an update from an earlier assessment.

USGS is the only provider of publicly available estimates of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources of onshore lands and offshore state waters. The USGS Barnett Shale assessment was undertaken as part of a nationwide project assessing domestic petroleum basins using standardized methodology and protocol.

The new assessment of the Barnett Shale may be found online. The 2003 Bend Arch-Fort Worth Basin assessment, which included the Barnett Shale, can also be found online. To find out more about USGS energy assessments and other energy research, please visit the USGS Energy Resources Program website, sign up for our Newsletter and follow us on Twitter.

A map showing the Barnett Shale assessment area in east Texas.
A map showing the Barnett Shale assessment area in east Texas. (High resolution image)
Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.