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Weekly Highlights

MEMORANDUM

From: Gabrielle Boudreaux Bodin
Subject: Weekly Highlights, USGS National Wetlands Research Center, September 19, 2013

Departmental/Bureau News - Current

Study Links Winter Whooping Crane Mortality Rates to Blue Crab Abundance: USGS NWRC ecologist Michael Baldwin, along with Bruce Pugesek (Montana State University) and Thomas Stehn (US FWS), coauthored a paper in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology on The relationship of blue crab abundance to winter mortality of Whooping Cranes. This study examined winter mortality rates of Whooping Cranes on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, and whether mortality may be linked to blue crab abundance, a primary food source for the cranes. Significant non-linear increases in both juvenile and adult mortality in relation to decreasing crab abundance were observed. Results suggest that some threshold of crab abundance exists in which Whooping Cranes have higher survival on their wintering grounds. (Michael Baldwin; Lafayette, La.; 337-266-8572)

Marsh Management Practices Examined in Relation to Carbon Sequestration: USGS NWRC research ecologist Ken Krauss and USGS Louisiana Water Science Center research hydrologist Christopher Swarzenski recently co-authored a paper for the journal Wetlands. The manuscript, A long-term comparison of carbon sequestration rates in impounded and naturally tidal freshwater marshes along the lower Waccamaw River, South Carolina, describes higher rates of carbon sequestration in naturally tidal marshes versus marshes managed as moist soil units. Moist soil management is a common practice in the coastal Carolinas, and typically involves exposed soils throughout the growing season to promote plant regeneration, followed by seasonal flooding during the winter to promote waterfowl habitat. While this form of management induces carbon losses relative to natural marshes, changes in hydrology to include greater tidal flushing or even more permanent flooding may provide greater rates of carbon sequestration from these same marshes in the future. Managers across the National Wildlife Refuge System may have an opportunity to increase storage of carbon in hydrological management units by minimizing drainage of impounded marshes, which may provide a significant entry into possible future carbon reduction markets. (Ken Krauss; Lafayette, La.; 337-266-8882)

Submergence Vulnerability Index Detailed: USGS NWRC scientists Camille Stagg and Gregg Snedden, along with Louisiana Department of Natural Resources scientists Leigh Anne Sharp and Thomas McGinnis, published a USGS Open-File Report titled Submergence Vulnerability Index Development and Application to Coastwide Reference Monitoring System Sites and Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act Projects. Since its implementation in 2003, the Louisiana Coastwide Reference Monitoring System (CRMS) has facilitated the creation of a comprehensive dataset that includes, but is not limited to, vegetation, hydrologic, and soil metrics. The primary impetus for this data collection is to assess land management activities across the coast. CRMS provides a method to synthesize this data to enable multi-scaled evaluations of activities in Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. Several indices have been developed to facilitate data synthesis and interpretation, including a Floristic Quality Index, a Hydrologic Index, and a Landscape Index. This document details the development of the Submergence Vulnerability Index, which incorporates sediment-elevation data as well as hydrologic data to determine the vulnerability of a wetland based on its ability to keep pace with sea-level rise. The objective of this report is to provide the coastal restoration community with data collection and model development methods for the sediment-elevation response variables and a description of how these response variables will be used to evaluate CWPPRA project and program effectiveness. (Camille Stagg; Lafayette, La.; 337-266-8537)

LCC Science Coordinator Participates in Quail Workshop: New World quail are believed to have first evolved in what is now Central America. In terms of modern species management, there are few that garner more attention than the northern bobwhite, a U.S. species of New World quail. The northern bobwhite is a candidate focal species for the Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative because these birds are important both economically and ecologically – and even culturally. Yet despite their value, numbers continue to decline. To learn more about the theories surrounding the decline, Gulf Coast Prairie LCC science coordinator Cynthia Edwards attended the fifth annual Quail Short Course and Restoration Workshop at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute in Kingsville, Texas, on September 12. In part to address the needs of species like the northern bobwhite, the LCC is working to address conservation needs through development of: (a) a grassland/shrubland conservation framework to identify focal areas; (b) a grassland monitoring and inventory tool (G-MIT) to support partner contributions for restoration efforts in focal areas; and (c) a project to develop a Grassland Decision Support Tool that will enable partners to identify critical grassland habitat areas for conservation and restoration. Linking species needs and identifying important habitat and partner priorities is core to the LCC’s mission and how it can add value by enhancing large scale conservation efforts. Gulf Coast Prairie LCC staff are located at the USGS National Wetlands Research Center. (Kristen Kordecki; Lafayette, La.; 337-266-8535)

Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge Hunting and Fishing Day: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge will hold its largest annual event, the 2013 Hunting and Fishing Day, on September 21. The event will be held on the refuge's Visitor Center grounds in Tallulah, Louisiana. USGS NWRC ecologist Heather Baldwin will manage an exhibit representing a portion of NWRC’s work on the forest and land use history of the refuge and surrounding Tensas River Basin from the 1840s thru the 1940s. The Tensas River NWR, which is funding the Center’s project, requested NWRC staff presence at this annual outdoor event in order to share preliminary research findings with the public and the refuge’s staff. Participation in this event also affords project staff the opportunity to develop new local and regional contacts. Due to the nature of this activity, participation in this type of event in the past has led to contacts instrumental to the accumulation of data related to this project. (Heather Baldwin; Lafayette, La; 337-266-8504)

NWRC Meets with Lafayette Economic Development Authority: USGS NWRC director Phil Turnipseed and information specialist Gabrielle Bodin will meet with Lafayette Economic Development Authority (LEDA) President and CEO Gregg Gothreaux on September 24. The mission of LEDA is to provide assistance to local companies in their growth, market development and workforce development efforts; to recruit additional companies considering locating in this area; and to assist in the development of new companies in order to diversify the economy within Lafayette Parish. (D. Phil Turnipseed; Lafayette, La.; 337-266-8501)

The Water Institute of the Gulf Open House: USGS NWRC director Phil Turnipseed will attend the Annual Open House at The Water Institute of the Gulf (TWIG) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on September 26. Attendees are invited to tour the offices, meet the team, learn about their research programs, and inquire about collaborative opportunities. The Water Institute of the Gulf is a not-for-profit, independent research institute dedicated to advancing the understanding of coastal, deltaic, river and water resource systems, both within the Gulf Coast and around the world. Their mission supports the practical application of innovative science and engineering, providing solutions that benefit society. (D. Phil Turnipseed; Lafayette, La.; 337-266-8501)

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