Climate change poses major challenges for conservation and management because it alters the area, quality, and spatial distribution of habitat for natural populations. To assess species’ vulnerability to climate change and target ongoing conservation investments, researchers and managers often consider the effects of projected changes in climate and land use on future habitat availability and quality and the uncertainty associated with these projections. Here, we draw on tools from hydrology and climate science to project the impact of climate change on the density of wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region of the USA, a critical area for breeding waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species. We evaluate the potential for a trade-off in the value of conservation investments under current and future climatic conditions and consider the joint effects of climate and land use. We use an integrated set of hydrological and climatological projections that provide physically based measures of water balance under historical and projected future climatic conditions. In addition, we use historical projections derived from ten general circulation models (GCMs) as a baseline from which to assess climate change impacts, rather than historical climate data. This method isolates the impact of greenhouse gas emissions and ensures that modeling errors are incorporated into the baseline rather than attributed to climate change. Our work shows that, on average, densities of wetlands (here defined as wetland basins holding water) are projected to decline across the U.S. Prairie Pothole Region, but that GCMs differ in both the magnitude and the direction of projected impacts. However, we found little evidence for a shift in the locations expected to provide the highest wetland densities under current vs. projected climatic conditions. This result was robust to the inclusion of projected changes in land use under climate change. We suggest that targeting conservation towards wetland complexes containing both small and relatively large wetland basins, which is an ongoing conservation strategy, may also act to hedge against uncertainty in the effects of climate change.
In an era of shrinking budgets yet increasing demands for conservation, the value of existing (i.e., historical) data are elevated. Lengthy time series on common, or previously common, species are particularly valuable and may be available only through the use of historical information. We provide first estimates of the probability of survival and longevity (0.67–0.79 and 5–7 years, respectively) for a subalpine population of a small-bodied, ostensibly common amphibian, the Boreal Chorus Frog (Pseudacris maculata (Agassiz, 1850)), using historical data and contemporary, hypothesis-driven information–theoretic analyses. We also test a priori hypotheses about the effects of color morph (as suggested by early reports) and of drought (as suggested by recent climate predictions) on survival. Using robust mark–recapture models, we find some support for early hypotheses regarding the effect of color on survival, but we find no effect of drought. The congruence between early findings and our analyses highlights the usefulness of historical information in providing raw data for contemporary analyses and context for conservation and management decisions.
Sustainable water management under future uncertainty with eco-engineering decision scaling
Poff, N LeRoy; Brown, Casey M; Grantham, Theodore; Matthews, John H; Palmer, Margaret A.; Spence, Caitlin M; Wilby, Robert L.; Haasnoot, Marjolijn; Mendoza, Guillermo F; Dominique, Kathleen C; Baeza, Andres
Managing freshwater resources sustainably under future climatic and hydrological uncertainty poses novel challenges. Rehabilitation of ageing infrastructure and construction of new dams are widely viewed as solutions to diminish climate risk, but attaining the broad goal of freshwater sustainability will require expansion of the prevailing water resources management paradigm beyond narrow economic criteria to include socially valued ecosystem functions and services. We introduce a new decision framework, eco-engineering decision scaling (EEDS), that explicitly and quantitatively explores trade-offs in stakeholder-defined engineering and ecological performance metrics across a range of possible management actions under unknown future hydrological and climate states. We illustrate its potential application through a hypothetical case study of the Iowa River, USA. EEDS holds promise as a powerful framework for operationalizing freshwater sustainability under future hydrological uncertainty by fostering collaboration across historically conflicting perspectives of water resource engineering and river conservation ecology to design and operate water infrastructure for social and environmental benefits.
Pesticide concentrations in frog tissue and wetland habitats in a landscape dominated by agriculture
Smalling, K.L., R. Reeves, E. Muths, M. Vandever, W.A. Battaglin, M.L. Hladik, and C.L. Pierce
ASPN is a Web-based decision tool that assists natural resource managers and planners in identifying and prioritizing social and economic planning issues, and provides guidance on appropriate social and economic methods to address their identified issues.
ASPN covers the breadth of issues facing natural resource management agencies so it is widely applicable for various resources, plans, and projects.
ASPN also realistically accounts for budget and planning time constraints by providing estimated costs and time lengths needed for each of the possible social and economic methods.
ASPN is a valuable starting point for natural resource managers and planners to start working with their agencies’ social and economic specialists. Natural resource management actions have social and economic effects that often require appropriate analyses. Additionally, in the United States, Federal agencies are legally mandated to follow guidance under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires addressing social and economic effects for actions that may cause biophysical impacts. Most natural resource managers and planners lack training in understanding the full range of potential social and economic effects of a management decision as well as an understanding of the variety of methods and analyses available to address these effects. Thus, ASPN provides a common framework which provides consistency within and across natural resource management agencies to assist in identification of pertinent social and economic issues while also allowing the social and economic analyses to be tailored to best meet the needs of the specific plan or project.
ASPN can be used throughout a planning process or be used as a tool to identify potential issues that may be applicable to future management actions. ASPN is useful during the pre-scoping phase as a tool to start thinking about potential social and economic issues as well as to identify potential stakeholders who may be affected. Thinking about this early in the planning process can help with outreach efforts and with understanding the cost and time needed to address the potential social and economic effects. One can use ASPN during the scoping and post-scoping phases as a way to obtain guidance on how to address issues that stakeholders identified. ASPN can also be used as a monitoring tool to identify whether new social and economic issues arise after a management action occurs.
ASPN is developed through a collaborative research effort between the USGS Fort Collins Science Center’s (FORT) Social and Economic Analysis (SEA) Branch and the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ASPN’s technical development is led by the USGS FORT’s Information Science Branch. An updated release, which will extend ASPN’s functionality and incorporate feature improvements identified in ongoing usability testing, is currently in the planning stages.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emerging and devastating disease of hibernating bats in North America. WNS is caused by a cold-growing fungus (Geomyces destructans) that infects the skin of hibernating bats during winter and causes life-threatening alterations in physiology and behavior. WNS has spread rapidly across the eastern United States and Canada since it was first documented in New York in the winter of 2006. This new disease is causing mass mortality and detrimentally affecting most of the 6 species of bats that hibernate in the northeastern United States. Particularly hard-hit are the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii), and federally endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). Several more species are also now known to be exposed to the fungus in the Midwest and Southeast. The sudden and widespread mortality associated with white-nose syndrome is unprecedented in any of the world’s bats and is a cause for international concern as the fungus and the disease spread farther north, south, and west. Loss of these long-lived insect-eating bats could have substantial adverse effects on agriculture and forestry through loss of natural pest-control services.
Tracking a Deadly Disease
Because WNS is spreading so rapidly, field surveillance data and diagnostic samples must be managed efficiently so that critical information can be communicated quickly among State and Federal land managers, as well as the public. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which plays a primary role in coordinating the Federal response to WNS, worked with the USGS Fort Collins Science Center’s Web Applications Team to develop the White-nose Syndrome Disease Tracking System. Version 1.0 of this system, released for Beta testing in May 2011, addresses two critical objectives:
enable state-level resource managers to effectively manage WNS field and laboratory data, and
provide customizable map and data reports of surveillance findings. The WNS Disease Tracking System subsequently was demonstrated to resource managers involved in the WNS response, and system users are assisting with in-depth testing. Once resource-management users are all trained (autumn 2011), they will begin populating the system with surveillance data, much of which will be immediately available to the public.
WNS version 1.0 was released into production in November, 2011 and state points-of-contact are currently being trainined. New users are providing ciritical feedback for WNS version 2.0, which is currently being planned with Fish and Wildlife Region 5 and the National White-nose Syndrome Data Management Team.
Key System Components
Disease Tracking: Customizable disease tracking maps and data exports for all U.S. states and counties
Disease Reporting: Tissue sample database management for authorized resource managers as well as a publicly accessible database of disease reporting contacts for all U.S. States and Federal resource management agencies
Diagnostic Labs: Directory of laboratories involved in white-nose syndrome diagnostic analyses
The Reimer Diatom Herbarium: an important resource for teaching and research
Rushforth, S., M. Edlund, S. Spaulding, and E. Stoermer