Alaska Science Center
USGS Changing Arctic Ecosystems Initiative
In 2007, the U.S. Geological Survey was asked by the Secretary of the Interior if there were any additional data or analyses that could be quickly conducted to help reduce uncertainty in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing decision for the polar bear. In the short span of six months, USGS took on this request and produced a series of reports for the Secretary. USGS projected the future status of polar bears by linking General Circulation Model projections of future sea ice with polar bear habitat and population models. These projections were the first of their kind, and supported by a strong foundation in empirical data from the USGS’ long-term studies of the southern Beaufort Sea polar bear population. Polar bears were listed as threatened under the ESA in 2008, and a funding initiative was developed to support refinement of the polar bear projection models and inform recovery planning. Because of the success of the analytical approach used for polar bears, and the anticipated need to conduct similar analyses for other species of interest to the Department of the Interior in the ice-dominated ecosystems of the Arctic, the initiative was broadened, becoming the “Changing Arctic Ecosystems” Initiative. The initiative formally began in 2010 with a suite of new studies focused on the Marine Ecosystem, the Arctic Coastal Plain, and the Boreal-Arctic Transition Zone.
The USGS Changing Arctic Ecosystems Initiative will enhance the long-term science foundation needed to address many critical resource concerns now and into the future, including:
USGS Fact Sheets
Geiselman, J., T. DeGange, K. Oakley, D. Derksen, and M. Whalen. 2011. Changing Arctic Ecosystems – research to understand and project changes in marine and terrestrial ecosystems of the Arctic. USGS Fact Sheet 2011-3136.
Oakley, K., M. Whalen, D. Douglas, M. Udevitz, T. Atwood, and C. Jay. 2012. Changing Arctic ecosystems—Polar bear and walrus response to the rapid decline in Arctic sea ice. U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2012-3131, 4 p.
Arctic Coastal Plain:
Pearce, J., T. DeGange, P. Flint, T. Fondell, D. Gustine, L. Holland-Bartels, A. Hope, J. Hupp, J. Koch, S. Talbot, D. Ward, and M. Whalen. 2012. Changing Arctic Ecosystems—Measuring and forecasting the response of Alaska's terrestrial ecosystem to a warming climate. U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2012-3144, 4 p.
Boreal-Arctic Transition Zone:
McNew, L., C. Handel, J. Pearce, T. DeGange, L. Holland-Bartels, and M. Whalen. 2013. Changing Arctic ecosystems—The role of ecosystem changes across the Boreal–Arctic transition zone on the distribution and abundance of wildlife populations. U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2013–3054, 2 p.