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Point Pleasant, WV, United States

Hopkins R.L.,Grande Rio University | Roush J.C.,Natural Resources Conservation Service
Ecology of Freshwater Fish | Year: 2013

Mountaintop mining with valley fills (MTM/VF) is the main source of landscape change in central Appalachia. While our knowledge of the local-scale effects of MTM/VF on stream chemistry and biotic assemblages has recently improved, the effects at the landscape scale are less well known. In this study, we explore the effects of MTM/VF on the distributions of six fish species with contrasting ecologies in the upper Kentucky River basin, an area heavily affected by MTM/VF. Using a museum-based data set of 239 occurrence records, land use/land cover data and boosted regression tree modelling, we were able to create robust predictive models for the focal species (AUCs = 0.82-0.93). Models explained from 41.2 to 71.9% of the variation in species distributions. We detected a marked negative influence of MTM/VF in four of the six species distribution models - with relative influences ranging from 5.9-12.7%. Species typically inhabiting faster-flowing riffle and run mesohabitats appeared to respond more strongly to MTM/VF. Interestingly, the mean patch size of MTM/VF was more influential than the overall proportion of the watershed affected by MTM/VF in our models. Thus, our data suggest the spatial pattern of mining disturbance is very important in determining the cumulative impact of MTM/VF. Considering the central Appalachian region is a continental hot spot for freshwater biodiversity, establishing a firm understanding of the effects of MTM/VF at the landscape scale is essential if we wish to protect these natural resources. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons A/S.

Kreiling R.M.,U.S. Geological Survey | Richardson W.B.,U.S. Geological Survey | Cavanaugh J.C.,Natural Resources Conservation Service | Bartsch L.A.,U.S. Geological Survey
Biogeochemistry | Year: 2011

In-stream nitrogen processing in the Mississippi River has been suggested as one mechanism to reduce coastal eutrophication in the Gulf of Mexico. Aquatic macrophytes in river channels and flood plain lakes have the potential to temporarily remove large quantities of nitrogen through assimilation both by themselves and by the attached epiphyton. In addition, rooted macrophytes act as oxygen pumps, creating aerobic microsites around their roots where coupled nitrification-denitrification can occur. We used in situ 15N-NO3- tracer mesocosm experiments to measure nitrate assimilation rates for macrophytes, epiphyton, and microbial fauna in the sediment in Third Lake, a backwater lake of the upper Mississippi River during June and July 2005. We measured assimilation over a range of nitrate concentrations and estimated a nitrate mass balance for Third Lake. Macrophytes assimilated the most nitrate (29.5 mg N m-2 d-1) followed by sediment microbes (14.4 mg N m-2 d-1) and epiphytes (5.7 mg N m-2d-1. Assimilation accounted for 6.8% in June and 18.6% in July of total nitrate loss in the control chambers. However, denitrification (292.4 mg N m-2 d-1) is estimated to account for the majority (82%) of the nitrate loss. Assimilation and denitrification rates generally increased with increasing nitrate concentration but denitrification rates plateaued at about 5 mg N L-1. This suggests that backwaters have the potential to remove a relatively high amount of nitrate but will likely become saturated if the load becomes too large. © 2010 US Government.

Copeland H.E.,The Nature Conservancy | Pocewicz A.,The Nature Conservancy | Naugle D.E.,University of Montana | Griffiths T.,Natural Resources Conservation Service | And 3 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

Increasing energy and housing demands are impacting wildlife populations throughout western North America. Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), a species known for its sensitivity to landscape-scale disturbance, inhabits the same low elevation sage-steppe in which much of this development is occurring. Wyoming has committed to maintain sage-grouse populations through conservation easements and policy changes that conserves high bird abundance "core" habitat and encourages development in less sensitive landscapes. In this study, we built new predictive models of oil and gas, wind, and residential development and applied build-out scenarios to simulate future development and measure the efficacy of conservation actions for maintaining sage-grouse populations. Our approach predicts sage-grouse population losses averted through conservation action and quantifies return on investment for different conservation strategies. We estimate that without conservation, sage-grouse populations in Wyoming will decrease under our long-term scenario by 14-29% (95% CI: 4-46%). However, a conservation strategy that includes the "core area" policy and $250 million in targeted easements could reduce these losses to 9-15% (95% CI: 3-32%), cutting anticipated losses by roughly half statewide and nearly two-thirds within sage-grouse core breeding areas. Core area policy is the single most important component, and targeted easements are complementary to the overall strategy. There is considerable uncertainty around the magnitude of our estimates; however, the relative benefit of different conservation scenarios remains comparable because potential biases and assumptions are consistently applied regardless of the strategy. There is early evidence based on a 40% reduction in leased hectares inside core areas that Wyoming policy is reducing potential for future fragmentation inside core areas. Our framework using build-out scenarios to anticipate species declines provides estimates that could be used by decision makers to determine if expected population losses warrant ESA listing. © 2013 Copeland et al.

On the Ground In this article, I provide general guidance for conducting select methods for quantifying principally herbaceous standing crop on rangelands and pasturelands, but also quantifying current yearTs shrub growth on rangelands. I discuss estimating by weight units, double-sampling, and harvesting methods. I also discuss the 1/100th-acre extended plot for determining current yearTs growth of medium to large shrubs on rangelands and determining the estimation of stocking rates for rangeland and pastureland. This article demonstrates how to determine the estimation of stocking rates for rangeland and pastureland. The conservation application of my article is to provide field personnel with sound quantitative methods for determining approximate standing crop of forage plants, in pounds per acre, for the express purpose of determining a current and defensible grazing capacity of a farm, ranch, or unit of public land. © 2015 The Society for Range Management.

Meddens A.J.H.,University of Idaho | Hicke J.A.,University of Idaho | Ferguson C.A.,Natural Resources Conservation Service
Ecological Applications | Year: 2012

Outbreaks of aggressive bark beetle species cause widespread tree mortality, affecting timber production, wildlife habitat, wildfire, forest composition and structure, biogeochemical cycling, and biogeophysical processes. As a result, agencies responsible for forest management in the United States and British Columbia conduct aerial surveys to map these forest disturbances. Here we combined aerial surveys from British Columbia (2001- 2010) and the western conterminous United States (1997-2010), produced 1-km2 grids of the area of crown mortality from bark beetle attack, and analyzed spatial and temporal patterns. We converted aerial-survey polygon data for each combination of host type and bark beetle species available in the western United States, and for each bark beetle species available in British Columbia. We converted affected area (which includes live and killed trees) to mortality area (crown area of killed trees) using species-specific crown diameters and the number (U.S.) or percentage (British Columbia) of killed trees. In the United States we also produced an upper estimate of mortality area by forcing the mortality area to match that from high-resolution imagery in Idaho, Colorado, and New Mexico. Resulting adjustment factors of 3.7-20.9 illustrate the underestimate of mortality by the U.S. aerial surveys. The upper estimate, which we suggest is more realistic, better matched the spatial patterns and severity of the British Columbia mortality area. Cumulative mortality area from all bark beetles was 5.46 Mha in British Columbia in 2001-2010 and 0.47-5.37 Mha (lower and upper estimate) in the western conterminous United States during 1997-2010. We note that we report year of detection here; studies that consider year of tree mortality should shift the time series back one year. We conclude by discussing uses and limitations of these data in ecological studies, including uncertainties associated with assumptions in the methods, lack of complete coverage by surveys, and the subjective nature of the survey databases. © 2012 by the Ecological Society of America.

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