Effects of dam removal on coastal and marine ecosystems
USGS ecologist and Mendenhall post-doc Melissa Foley continues to study how the removal of two dams on the Elwha River in Washington state is affecting coastal and marine ecosystems. Foley is working with biologists for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe to understand how changes in physical factors such as salinity, temperature, and turbidity affect biological productivity in estuaries near the river mouth, which have historically served as nursery habitat for juvenile salmon. In the nearshore, Foley is working with other USGS scientists to identify factors causing the loss of subtidal algae around the mouth of the Elwha River. Foley is measuring light availability, sediment deposition, and scouring frequency to determine if one or a combination of these factors is driving the marked decrease in algal cover since dam removal began in 2011. For more information, contact Melissa Foley, 831-460-7564.
Visit the "USGS Science to Support the Elwha River Restoration Project" web site at http://www.usgs.gov/elwha.
Groundwater Studies on Kwajalein Atoll
Peter Swarzenski of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center will continue studies of the coastal aquifer of Roi Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll, February 23–March 3, 2014. Swarzenski is investigating underground freshwater and saltwater using geochemical and geophysical techniques, including trace metal, nutrient, and carbon geochemistry; radon isotope analysis; piezometry; thermal conductivity; and electrical resistivity. This work is part of a joint study for the Department of Defense, Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) by USGS, NOAA, and the University of Hawaii, to assess impacts of sea-level rise and storm-wave inundation on infrastructure and freshwater under various sea-level rise and climate scenarios. DOD will use the findings to develop climate-change adaptation plans for infrastructure and water resources. The findings also will be useful to Pacific island nations threatened by sea-level rise and climate change. For more information contact Peter Swarzenski, firstname.lastname@example.org, 831-460-7529.
USGS Scientists Map Snohomish Delta, Washington
To inform managers tasked with ecosystem restoration, salmon recovery, flood-hazard mitigation, and climate-change planning in Puget Sound, scientists from the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center are mapping the Snohomish Delta where data either do not exist or were last collected in the 1960s. Swath bathymetry and acoustic backscatter data will be merged with recent LiDAR data to generate high-resolution (1-meter) onshore-offshore digital-elevation and substrate models to characterize important salmon habitats, sediment budgets, and transport processes, and the effects of artificial levees. Many Pacific Northwest river-delta wetlands have lost habitat due to levees that focus stream flow and sediment offshore, leaving wetlands starved for sediment and vulnerable to sea-level rise while fragmenting nearshore seagrass meadows—both essential habitats for endangered salmon species. The data will provide important boundary conditions for hydrodynamic modeling. For more information, contact Eric Grossman, email@example.com, 206-526-2529.
Threats to Coral Reefs in American Samoa
USGS geologist Curt Storlazzi traveled to the National Park of American Samoa in mid-January 2014 to help the National Park Service address threats to coral reefs on the north side of the island of Tutuila. Threats include pollution caused by historical land-use practices, climate change (coral bleaching has occurred), outbreaks of crown-of-thorns sea stars (pictured here) that can kill coral reefs, and overfishing of grazers that suppress algal overgrowth caused by land-based pollution. Storlazzi also coordinated with academic, NOAA, and EPA scientists and American Samoa officials on research needs for the US Coral Reef Task Force priority study area at Faga'alu on the south side of Tutuila, where excessive land-based pollution threatens reefs. For more information, contact Curt Storlazzi, firstname.lastname@example.org, 831-460-7521.
USGS Among Recipients of Prestigious DOI Partners in Conservation Award
The multiagency project “Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Atlantic Deepwater Canyons” is a recipient of the 2013 U.S. Department of the Interior’s Partners in Conservation Award. This study investigated the ecology of deepwater canyons off the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast—pathways for nutrients, sediments, and pollutants from the continental shelf to the deep sea about which little was previously known. Participants came from 17 organizations, including USGS, BOEM, NOAA, WHOI, several universities, private firms, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science. Principal USGS participants are Colleen Charles, Amanda Demopoulos, Cheryl Morrison, Christina Kellogg, and Nancy Prouty. Out of many nominations, only 20 partnerships were recognized in 2013 from all nine bureaus of DOI. The Secretary of the Interior presented the awards January 16, 2014, in Washington, D.C. For more information, contact Nancy Prouty, email@example.com, 831-460-7526.