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Weekly Highlights

MEMORANDUM

From: Gabrielle Boudreaux Bodin
Subject: Weekly Highlights, USGS National Wetlands Research Center, May 1, 2014

Departmental/Bureau News - Current

USGS Contributes to Assessment of Factors Influencing Driving Patterns and Greenhouse Gas Emissions: USGS NWRC researcher Jim Grace has contributed to an article just published in the Transportation Research Record, which is a journal of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies that seeks to explain driving levels for 315 urbanized areas in the U.S. The study, Combined effects of compact development, transportation investments, and road user pricing on vehicle miles traveled in urbanized areas, found that population size, income, and gasoline prices are primary exogenous drivers of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) while the density of urban development is a primary endogenous driver. Urbanized areas with more freeway capacity are significantly less dense and have significantly higher VMT per capita. Areas with more public transit service coverage and service frequency, in contrast, have higher development densities and per capita transit use, which leads to lower VMT per capita. These results indicate a number of benefits associated with current trends in urban planning for compact development. (Jim Grace; Lafayette, La.; 337-266-8632)
 
USGS Contributes to Clarification of How Plant Traits Influence Ecosystem Shift along Climate Gradients: USGS NWRC researcher Jim Grace has contributed to an article (Functional diversity supports the physiological tolerance hypothesis for plant species richness along climatic gradients) just published in the Journal of Ecology that tests the “physiological tolerance” hypothesis of plant adaptation to stress. The physiological tolerance hypothesis proposes that plant diversity is highest in warm and/or wet climates because a wider range of functional strategies can persist under such conditions. Functional diversity metrics, combined with statistical modelling, offer new ways to test whether diversity–environment relationships are consistent with this hypothesis. Using historical data from the 1960s, the investigators found results consistent with the physiological tolerance hypothesis - that functional diversity was higher in more favorable climatic conditions and that measurements of functional diversity could explain the observed relationship of topographic climate gradients to plant species diversity. (Jim Grace; Lafayette, La.; 337-266-8632)
 
USGS Contributes to Evaluation of Restoration of Sage-Grouse Habitat: USGS NWRC researcher Jim Grace contributed to the development of occupancy models used to predict sage-grouse habitat quality at 826 plots associated with 101 post-wildfire seeding projects implemented from 1990 to 2003. The team also compared conditions at restoration sites to published habitat guidelines. The study finds that “given current fire frequencies and restoration capabilities, protection of landscapes containing a mix of dwarf sagebrush and big sagebrush steppe, minimal human development, and low non-native plant cover may provide the best opportunity for conservation of sage-grouse habitats.” The study, Greater Sage-Grouse habitat associations and the effectiveness of post-fire restoration in the Great Basin, was published in the Ecological Society of America journal Ecosphere. (Jim Grace; Lafayette, La.; 337-266-8632) 

GCPO LCC Steering Committee Meets to Coordinate Southeast Conservation Efforts: The Steering Committee for the Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative met at the Stephen F. Austin State University Gardens in Nacogdoches, Texas, on April 22 – 24, 2014.  Steering Committee representatives from 6 state agencies, 2 nongovernmental organizations, and 5 federal agencies (including USGS representative Scott Gain) were in attendance.  Staff from both the Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative (USFWS Science Coordinator John Tirpak) and the Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative (USFWS Coordinator Bill Bartush and WMI Science Coordinator Cynthia Edwards) - all stationed at the USGS NWRC - gave presentations and facilitated discussion on conservation design and coordination of a common vision for conservation across the Southeast.  LCCs provide a forum for individual agencies and organizations to define shared goals for conservation and increase the efficiency of their management actions through leverage of science, technology, and partnership. The Steering Committee agreed to pursue common biological objectives for the Gulf Coast; complete a transparent, defensible, and replicable conservation design pilot in the Ozark Highlands; and pursue a Coordinator for the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy through the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.  Details from the meeting are available on the GCPO LCC Steering Committee’s webpage. (John Tirpak; Lafayette, La.; 337-266-8565)

Louisiana Celebrates Success in Coastal Restoration: The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) Task Force hosted a public project dedication ceremony April 30, 2014, in Houma, Louisiana. The ceremony celebrated CWPPRA’s continued commitment to coastal restoration. During the event, the public was able to meet wetland engineers, scientists, and policymakers who have worked together to complete 101 Louisiana projects over the last 23 years. Eighteen coastal restoration projects were highlighted at the event with one field session for members of the public to allow them to see restoration in progress. USGS NWRC Branch Chief Scott Wilson, who also serves as the CWPPRA Public Outreach Chairman, NWRC Ecologist Kate Spear, and Five Rivers Services contractors who work on the CWPPRA outreach project including Kathy Ladner, Cole Ruckstuhl, and Susan Testroet-Bergeron.  The CWPPRA outreach team used the event to explain how CWPPRA has been the backbone of coastal restoration efforts in Louisiana for the last 23 years and will continue to play an important role as Louisiana constructs more and larger ecosystem restoration projects with federal partners in the future. Photos from the event will be posted on the CWPPRA Facebook and Flickr sites. (Susan Testroet-Bergeron; Lafayette, La.; 337-266-8623)

Wetland Research in New Zealand to be Presented: Kerry Bodmin, a wetland ecologist at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd in New Zealand, will present a seminar entitled “New Zealand, Aotearoa: Freshwater Plants, Wetlands and Two Willow Invaders” on May 5, 2014, at the USGS NWRC. New Zealand, Aotearoa, is an isolated archipelago in the Southern Hemisphere that has developed a unique flora and fauna largely in the absence of mammals. Bodmin will give an overview of the New Zealand freshwater environment; outline work that the Aquatic Plants team at NIWA undertake, particularly biosecurity aspects; and present one aspect of her wetland work on invasive willow (Salix) species in a Ramsar wetland. (Nicole Cormier; Lafayette, La.; 337-266-8838)

GCP LCC Hosts Grassland Decision Support Tool Project Scoping Workshops: As part of the Grassland Decision Support Tool Project, the Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative is working with the Missouri Resources Assessment Partnership (MoRAP) and NatureServe to host a series of Project Scoping Workshops in early May. These workshops are designed to gather input from partners on the types of grassland habitats they are interested in, what types of decisions they need to make regarding grassland conservation, and the identification of potential pilot areas to test the resultant Decision Support Tool. The workshops will be held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on May 7, 2014, Austin, Texas, on May 8, Kingsville, Texas on May 13, and Lafayette, Louisiana, on May 15. Interest in the workshops has been strong and organizers are anticipating great conversations among the partners at each of the four locations. The Lafayette workshop will be held at the USGS NWRC (where GCP LCC staff are based) and will involve partners from across South Louisiana who are interested in grassland conservation. (Bill Bartush; Lafayette, La.; 337-266-8816)

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