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USGS Changing Arctic Ecosystems Initiative

Black BrantIn 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:

  • Information on wildlife species and their responses to ecosystem change to inform management decisions related to development of oil, gas and mineral resources on Bureau of Land Management lands and on the Outer Continental Shelf managed by Bureau of Ocean Energy Management;
  • Forecasting and mapping products to assist DOI land managers with maintaining viable natural ecosystems in the Arctic;
  • Data and forecasting tools to inform critical DOI actions related to regulation or policy, such as related to the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, native subsistence and co-management actions;
  • Projections of habitat change and potential species responses to help agencies design new monitoring protocols or modify strategies to support adaptive management in a changing Arctic.

updated USGS Changing Arctic Ecosystems FY2015-2019 Research Work Plan

USGS Fact Sheets


Geiselman, J. A., A. R. DeGange, K. L. Oakley, D. V. Derksen, and M. E. Whalen. 2011. Changing Arctic ecosystems - Research to understand and project changes in marine and terrestrial ecosystems of the Arctic. USGS Fact Sheet 2011-3136, 4 p. [Details] [Full Publication]

Marine Ecosystem:

Oakley, K. L., T. C. Atwood, D. C. Douglas, K. D. Rode, and M. E. Whalen. 2015. Changing Arctic Ecosystems: Updated forecast: Reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions required to improve polar bear outlook. 2015-3042, 2 p. doi:10.3133/fs20153042 [Details] [Full Publication] [PDF file 656 kb]

Oakley, K. L., M. E. Whalen, D. C. Douglas, M. S. Udevitz, T. C. Atwood, and C. V. Jay. 2012. Changing Arctic Ecosystems: Polar bear and walrus response to the rapid decline in Arctic sea ice. USGS Fact Sheet 2012-3131, 4 p. [Details] [Full Publication]

Arctic Coastal Plain:

Hupp, J. W., D. H. Ward, M. E. Whalen, and J. M. Pearce. 2015. Changing Arctic ecosystems—What is causing the rapid increase of Snow Geese in northern Alaska?. USGS Fact Sheet 2015-3062, 2 p. doi:10.3133/fs20153062 [Details] [Full Publication]

Gustine, D. D., L. G. Adams, M. E. Whalen, and J. M. Pearce. 2014. Changing Arctic Ecosystems–Resilience of caribou to climatic shifts in the Arctic. USGS Fact Sheet 2014-3103, 2 p. doi:10.3133/fs20143103 [Details] [Full Publication]

Uher-Koch, B. D., J. A. Schmutz, M. E. Whalen, and J. M. Pearce. 2014. Changing Arctic Ecosystems - Ecology of loons in a changing Arctic. USGS Fact Sheet 2014–3093, 2 p. doi:10.3133/fs20143093 [Details] [Full Publication]

Flint, P. L., M. E. Whalen, and J. M. Pearce. 2014. Changing Arctic Ecosystems - Sea ice decline, permafrost thaw, and benefits for geese. USGS Fact Sheet 2014–3088, 2 p. doi:10.3133/fs20143088 [Details] [Full Publication]

Pearce, J. M., A. R. DeGange, P. L. Flint, T. F. Fondell, D. D. Gustine, L. E. Holland-Bartels, A. G. Hope, J. W. Hupp, J. C. Koch, J. A. Schmutz, S. L. Talbot, D. H. Ward, and M. E. Whalen. 2012. Changing Arctic Ecosystems - Measuring and forecasting the response of Alaska's terrestrial ecosystem to a warming climate. USGS Fact Sheet 2012-3144, 4 p. [Details] [Full Publication]

Boreal-Arctic Transition Zone:

McNew, L. B., C. M. Handel, J. M. Pearce, A. R. DeGange, L. E. Holland-Bartels, and M. E. Whalen. 2013. Changing Arctic Ecosystems - The role of ecosystem changes across the Boreal-Arctic transition zone on the distribution and abundance of wildlife populations. USGS Fact Sheet 2013-3054, 2 p. [Details] [Full Publication]


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