Terrestrial Connectivity Across the South Central United States: Implications for the Sustainability of Wildlife Populations and Communities

Funding Amount and Duration:

$203,918 from October 1, 2012 - September 1, 2014

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey 

Principal Investigators:

  • Kristen A. Baum, OSU

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Samuel B. Fuhlendorf, Kristopher L. Giles, & Monica Papes, OSU
  • Daniel Saenz, US Forest Service
  • Norman C. Elliot, US Department of Agriculture
  • Bill Bartush, Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative
  • Allan Janus, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

About:

Connectivity, or the extent to which a landscape facilitates or impedes the movement of organisms, is an important component of the sustainability of wildlife populations and communities. Habitat fragmentation, modification, and loss have been implicated in the decline of almost all threatened and endangered species, and both continued land-use change and climate change will have an effect on habitats. The goal of this project is to use a systematic and comprehensive approach to evaluate terrestrial connectivity across the South Central United States. Models will be used to predict patterns of connectivity for species which vary in habitat preferences, methods of habitat selection, and responses to the area between habitats. Researchers will evaluate the implications of predicted land-use change across the study area, including a focus on climate change and dominant land uses within the region. The results of this project will include spatially explicit connectivity maps that can be used for making informed management decisions about terrestrial connectivity within this region.

Evaluating the Impacts of Climate Extremes on Karst Hydrology and Species Vulnerability

Funding Amount and Duration:

$40,000 from October 1, 2012 - December 31, 2013

Funding Source:

US Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

Barbara J. Mahler, USGS Texas Water Science Center

About:

Project Fact Sheet

Project Webinar

USGS Report: Historical and projected climate (1901–2050) and hydrologic response of karst aquifers, and species vulnerability in south-central Texas and western South Dakota

Model Description: RRAWFLOW: Rainfall-Response Aquifer and Watershed Flow Model (v1.15)

Publication: Holocene climate variability in Texas, USA: An integration of existing paleoclimate data and modeling with a new, high-resolution speleothem record

Publication: Dissolved oxygen fluctuations in karst spring flow and implications for endemic species: Barton Springs, Edwards aquifer, Texas, USA

Publication: Prediction, time variance, and classification of hydraulic response to recharge in two karst aquifers

Karst aquifers—formed when the movement of water dissolves bedrock—are critical groundwater resources in North America. Water moving through these aquifers carves out magnificent caves, sinkholes, and other formations. These formations are home to high concentrations of rare and endangered species, but the hydrological conditions that support these species can change rapidly. Managing these ecosystems into the future requires a better understanding of how climate, hydrology, and karst ecosystems interact.

The objective of this project was to determine how species and ecosystems associated with karst might respond to future temperature and precipitation extremes and accompanying changes in groundwater levels and springflow. The research focused on 16 species in the Edwards aquifer in south-central Texas and eight species in the Madison aquifer in western South Dakota. Researchers linked global climate models, regional climate models, and hydrologic models to determine how future springflow might be impacted by changes in temperature and precipitation. By combining information about future hydrology with what we know about species needs, researchers determined the vulnerability of the selected species to climate extremes.

Researchers found that more species in the Edwards aquifer are vulnerable to climate extremes than in the Madison aquifer, due in part to the more severe hydrologic changes that the Edwards aquifer is expected to undergo. This result suggests that including hydrologic factors critical to species health is essential in evaluating the vulnerability of karst ecosystems to climate extremes. Natural resource managers can use this information to understand how the character of karst systems are changing and prioritize conservation activities accordingly.

Assessing the Potential Impact of Sea-Level Rise on Submerged Aquatic Vegetation and Waterfowl in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

Funding Amount and Duration:

$267,209 from September 1, 2012 - August 30, 2014

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Megan La Peyre, USGS Louisiana Fish and Wildlife Cooperative Research Unit

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Andy Nyman, LSU
  • Mike Poirrier, Univ. of New Orleans
  • Brady Couvillion, USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
  • Joy Merino, NMFS
  • Mike Brasher, Ducks Unlimited, Gulf Coast Joint Venture
  • Stephen DeMaso, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Gulf Coast Joint Venture
  • Barry Wilson, Gulf Coast Joint Venture

About:

Publication: Establishing a Baseline of Estuarine Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Resources Across Salinity Zones Within Coastal Areas of the Northern Gulf of Mexico

Publication: Brackish Marsh Zones as a Waterfowl Habitat Resource in Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Beds in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

Submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) communities are highly productive ecosystems that provide significant ecological benefits to coastal areas, including essential caloriesfor wintering waterfowl. However, the potential effects of sea-level rise is posing new questions about the future availability of SAV for waterfowl and other coastal wildlife. Of primary concern is the fact that rising seas have the potential to increase salinities in fresh and brackish marshes on the Gulf of Mexico’s coast, changing the distribution and composition of SAV communities, and affecting valuable waterfowl habitat and food resources. Not enough is known about the relationship between salinity and SAV to predict how this important food resource will respond to higher salinity levels, creating difficulties for waterfowl conservation planning.

This project identified the relationship between SAV, salinity, and other environmental variables as a first step in understanding how sea-level rise might affect food availability for waterfowl. The study examined coastal marshes of the northern Gulf of Mexico from Mobile Bay, AL, to the Nueces River, TX. Researchers compared SAV distribution and composition across a range of salinity levels, and found that water depth and salinity were the primary factors in determining the amount of SAV resources in a particular marsh. Surprisingly, researchers also found that brackish marsh tended to produce quantities of SAV waterfowl food resources similar to those in fresh marsh environments. The study also found some evidence that saline marshes contain less waterfowl food resources than brackish, intermediate, and fresh marshes.

This work will directly benefit efforts of the Gulf Coast Joint Venture, Gulf Coast Prairies Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC), and Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks LCC in forecasting the effects of sea-level rise on the distribution, abundance, and diversity of SAV resources and the priority fish and wildlife populations that depend upon them.

Building Capacity within the CSC Network to Effectively Deliver and Communicate Science to Resource Managers and Planners

Funding Amount and Duration:

$50,000 from September 1, 2012 - December 1, 2013

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Dennis Patterson, TTU

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Katharine Hayhoe, TTU
  • Riley Dunlap, OSU

About:

Final Report

A limited amount of valid scientific information about global climate change and its detrimental impacts has reached the public and exerted a positive impact on the public policy process or future planning for adaptation and mitigation. This project is designed to address this limitation by bringing together expertise in the social and communication sciences from targeted academic institutions affiliated with the Department of the Interior’s Climate Science Centers (CSCs) by means of a workshop. Workshop attendees will address and examine barriers to climate communication and methods for communicating science for policy application and engaging media and outreach. Results from the workshop will be published and made available as a resource to CSCs, scientists, land managers, and policymakers. This effort will bring together the expertise needed to ensure that the nation’s CSCs are able to effectively communicate the science of the important but often misunderstood issue of anthropogenic climate change and meaningfully support effective policy across the United States.

Mapping Fresh, Intermediate, Brackish and Saline Marshes in the North Central Gulf of Mexico Coast to Inform Future Projections

Funding Amount and Duration:

$150,000 from July 1, 2012 - June 30, 2014

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey 

Principal Investigators:

  • Stephen B. Hartley, USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Brady Couvillion, Nicholas M. Enwright, & William R. Jones, USGS
  • Mike Brasher, Gulf Coast Joint Venture and Ducks Unlimited
  • Barry Wilson, Gulf Coast Joint Venture and US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Jenneke Visser, UL-Lafayette
  • Bart Ballard, TAMU Kingsville

About:

Map: Delineation of marsh types from Corpus Christi Bay, Texas, to Perdido Bay, Alabama, in 2010

Map: Vegetation types in coastal Louisiana in 2013

Publication: Delineation of marsh types of the Texas coast from Corpus Christi Bay to the Sabine River in 2010

Spatial data depicting marsh types (e.g. fresh, intermediate, brackish and saline) for the north-central Gulf of Mexico coast are inconsistent across the region, limiting the ability of conservation planners to model the current and future capacity of the coast to sustain priority species. The goal of this study is to (1) update the resolution of coastal Texas vegetation data to match that of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and (2) update vegetation maps for the Texas through Alabama region using current Landsat Imagery. Creating consistent regional vegetation maps will enable scientists to model vegetation response to and potential impacts of future climate change.

Analyzing and Communicating the Ability of Data and Models to Simulate Streamflow and Answer Resource Management Questions

Funding Amount and Duration:

$50,000 from July 1, 2012 - June 30, 2013

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey 

Principal Investigators:

  • Shannon K Brewer, Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Chris B. Zou &Thomas Worthington, OSU
  • Paul Kemp, Univ. of Southhampton
  • Oklahoma Cooperative Research Unit

About:

To date, hydrological and ecological models have been developed independently from each other, making their application particularly challenging for interdisciplinary studies. The objective of this project is to synthesize and evaluate prevailing hydrological and ecological models in the South-Central U.S., particularly the southern Great Plains region. This analysis will identify the data requirements and suitability of each model to simulate stream flow while addressing associated changes in the ecology of stream systems, and will portray climate variability and uncertainty. The anticipated results and deliverables of this project will include a comprehensive, updated, and systematic report on recent developments in ecosystem hydrology with a focus on freshwater resource management. This synthesis report will directly address existing needs of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) by providing information that can be readily used to help understand the effect of climate change and land management on hydrology and associated fish communities.

Inter-Tribal Workshops on Climate Variability and Change

Funding Amount and Duration:

$55,407 from July 1, 2012 - December 1, 2013

Funding Source:

  • U.S. Geological Survey

Principal Investigators:

  • Laurel Smith, University of Oklahoma

Cooperators & Partners:

  • Renee McPherson, Randy Peppler, & Rachel Riley, University of Oklahoma 
  • Wayne Kellogg, Chickasaw Nation
  • Dana McDaniel Bonham, Choctaw Nation
  • Kim Winton, USGS
  • Filoteo Gomez

About:

Final Report

Documentary: Listening for the Rain

New partnerships among tribal nations and members of the climate science and conservation communities call for multicultural conversations about climate change, risk, and variability. To contribute to the goal of mutual understanding, this project will develop and implement a series of workshops that will (1) educate tribal representatives across the region about climate science and climate adaptation practices, (2) document climate impacts on the tribal nations and their peoples, lands, resources, and economies, and (3) extend, enhance, and foster dialogue among tribal representatives, climate scientists, and conservation leadership. By blending educational outreach with preliminary research on how tribal members know and conceptualize weather and climate, as well as how they have historically struggled with adapting to new climate conditions, this project will facilitate the design of products that tribal decision makers can use, help monitor climate change in the field, and provide lessons about adaptation that are useful for both tribal and non-tribal communities and businesses.