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Weekly Highlights

MEMORANDUM

From: Gabrielle Boudreaux Bodin
Subject: Weekly Highlights, USGS National Wetlands Research Center, March 14, 2013  

Departmental/Bureau News - Current

  • USGS Contributes to Analysis of Effects of Urbanization on Stream Thermal Regimes: A paper by Kayleigh Somers (Duke University), Jim Grace (USGS NWRC), and others, Streams in the urban heat island: spatial and temporal variability in temperature, was published in Freshwater Science. It reports on an investigation of the mechanisms whereby urbanization can impact stream temperatures, an important driver of stream biological conditions. Streams draining urban areas tend to be hotter than rural and forested streams at baseflow because of warmer urban air and ground temperatures, paved surfaces, and a decrease in shade trees adjacent to streams. Urban infrastructure efficiently routes runoff over these hot impervious surfaces and through storm drains directly into streams, which can lead to rapid, dramatic increases in temperature. Results show that the usual mitigation methods, such as maintenance of urban forests, fail to protect streams from rapid heating during storm flow events. It is concluded that protection of urban streams will require larger-scale management than commonly practiced at present. (Jim Grace, Lafayette, La; 337-266-8632)

  • University Students Tour NWRC: Students from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Department of Renewable Resources toured the USGS National Wetlands Research Center on March 13. Scientist Heather Baldwin (Five Rivers Services) provided an overview of research at NWRC and led the students on a tour. They learned how USGS uses Doppler radar to track bird migration from Michael Baldwin, heard about mapping from Jason Dugas, and listened to a presentation on GIS from Adrienne Garber (Five Rivers Services). The students are enrolled in a watershed science class at the University. The senior-level course teaches students to apply the planning process at the watershed (and larger) scale emphasizing the use of GIS and computer modeling tools. (Gabrielle Bodin; Lafayette, La.; 337-266-8655)

  • Use of Sediment Amendments to Rehabilitate Sinking Coastal Swamps: USGS NWRC scientist Beth Middleton and Jiang Ming, of the Chinese Academy of Science, have published an article in the journal Ecological Engineering on the use of sediment amendments to rehabilitate sinking coastal swamp forests in Louisiana. Coastal wetlands are losing elevation worldwide; therefore, techniques to increase elevation, such as sediment amendment, might benefit these wetlands. This study examined the potential of sediment amendment to raise elevation and support the production and regeneration of vegetation in coastal forests in Louisiana. Sediment was applied in January 2007 to Treasure Island in Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. The layer of sediment was relatively deep and may have exceeded an optimal threshold. Sediment-amended swamp with the highest elevation had some tree mortality and little tree growth of bald cypress (T. distichum). Also, sediment-amended swamp had higher root biomasses of ruderal species with lower species richness and cover of herbaceous species. Nevertheless, throughout controlled water releases during an oil spill emergency in 2010, both sediment-amended and reference forest had higher production levels than in other years. Deep layers of sediment application in coastal swamp forest may shift species makeup in these forests by changing the composition of herbaceous and woody species. While sediment amendment is a compelling management alternative for sinking coastal wetlands, optimal thresholds were not determined for these bald cypress-water tupelo (Taxodium distichumNyssa aquatica) swamps. Studies of other coastal wetland types using shallower depths of sediment (<35 cm) suggest benefits to the growth of vegetation. Future tests might examine the efficacy of shallower sediment amendment in coastal freshwater swamps. (Beth Middleton; Lafayette, La.; 337-266-8618)

  • Study Assesses Benefits of WRP to Amphibians: USGS NWRC scientists Hardin Waddle and Brad Glorioso co-authored an article in the journal Restoration Ecology, along with USGS scientist Stephen Faulkner, titled, A quantitative assessment of the conservation benefits of the Wetlands Reserve Program to amphibians. This work was part of a larger effort to evaluate the effectiveness of the Wetlands Reserve Program for providing ecosystem services in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. USGS scientists determined that species richness of amphibians was significantly higher at WRP restoration sites than in nearby agricultural sites. They found evidence that amphibians readily colonize restored wetlands, and will occupy these sites at a higher rate than the surrounding agricultural landscape. These results demonstrate that for this taxonomic group, the WRP is beneficial. Methods used in this study to evaluate the benefit of restoration could be used in other locations and with other groups of indicator species. (Hardin Waddle; Lafayette, La.; 337-266-8671)

  • Seminar on Sudden Vegetation Dieback: Wade H. Elmer, a plant pathologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, Connecticut, will present a seminar titled “Sudden Vegetation Dieback Along Atlantic and Gulf Coasts” at the USGS NWRC on March 18. Sudden vegetation dieback (SVD) is the sudden death (within one season) of smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) in intertidal salt marshes followed by no or very slow recovery. It was first observed in marshes in the Florida Panhandle in the early 1990s and then again in 2000 in Louisiana where over 180,000 ha of marsh grass in the Gulf suddenly died. Over the decade, SVD was observed along the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Georgia. Some sites have recovered, but many have not, leaving barren areas of remnant peat. Most wetland scientists support the hypothesis that drought was causal to many SVD events or functioned as a predisposing stressor with some biotic agent such as plant pathogens and/or herbivores. One moderately virulent pathogen that was found in all SVD sites surveyed is Fusarium palustre. The presentation will highlight past research on SVD and explore current hypotheses and future directions for research. (Nicole Cormier; Lafayette, La.; 337-266-8838)

  • USGS Provides CRMS Training Session: USGS NWRC Physical Scientist Craig Conzelmann, Ecologist Sarai Piazza, and Computer Scientist Marc Comeaux will instruct personnel from governmental agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the public on how to effectively use the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act’s Coastwide Reference Monitoring System. The session will take place on March 19, in Baton Rouge. The instructors will explain what data are available, how to visualize the data, and where to access data. The CRMS program collects data that are used to monitor the effectiveness of individual coastal restoration projects. These data are also used to provide an understanding of the cumulative effects of ongoing projects. (Sarai Piazza; Baton Rouge, La.; 225-578-7044)

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