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Circular 1383–C

U.S. Geological Survey Ecosystems Science Strategy—Advancing Discovery and Application through Collaboration

By Byron K. Williams, G. Lynn Wingard, Gary Brewer, James E. Cloern, Guy Gelfenbaum, Robert B. Jacobson, Jeffrey L. Kershner, Anthony D. McGuire, James D. Nichols, Carl D. Shapiro, Charles van Riper III, and Robin P. White

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (132 MB)Executive Summary

Ecosystem science is critical to making informed decisions about natural resources that can sustain our Nation’s economic and environmental well-being. Resource managers and policymakers are faced with countless decisions each year at local, regional, and national levels on issues as diverse as renewable and nonrenewable energy development, agriculture, forestry, water supply, and resource allocations at the urbanrural interface. The urgency for sound decisionmaking is increasing dramatically as the world is being transformed at an unprecedented pace and in uncertain directions. Environmental changes are associated with natural hazards, greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing demands for water, land, food, energy, mineral, and living resources. At risk is the Nation’s environmental capital, the goods and services provided by resilient ecosystems that are vital to the health and wellbeing of human societies. Ecosystem science—the study of systems of organisms interacting with their environment and the consequences of natural and human-induced change on these systems—is necessary to inform decisionmakers as they develop policies to adapt to these changes.

This Ecosystems Science Strategy is built on a framework that includes basic and applied science. It highlights the critical roles that U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists and partners can play in building scientific understanding and providing timely information to decisionmakers. The strategy underscores the connection between scientific discoveries and the application of new knowledge, and it integrates ecosystem science and decisionmaking, producing new scientific outcomes to assist resource managers and providing public benefits. We envision the USGS as a leader in integrating scientific information into decisionmaking processes that affect the Nation’s natural resources and human well-being.

The USGS is uniquely positioned to play a pivotal role in ecosystem science. With its wide range of expertise, the Bureau can bring holistic, cross-scale, interdisciplinary capabilities to the design and conduct of monitoring, research, and modeling and to new technologies for data collection, management, and visualization. Collectively, these capabilities can be used to reveal ecological patterns and processes, explain how and why ecosystems change, and forecast change over different spatial and temporal scales. USGS science can provide managers with options and decision-support tools to use resources sustainably. The USGS has long-standing, collaborative relationships with the Department of the Interior (DOI) and other partners in the natural sciences, in both conducting science and applying the results. The USGS engages these partners in cooperative investigations that otherwise would lack the necessary support or be too expensive for a single bureau to conduct.

The heart of this strategy is a framework for USGS ecosystems science that focuses on five long-term goals, which are seen as interconnected components that reinforce our vision of the USGS providing science that is at the forefront of decisionmaking.

First posted April 15, 2013

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For additional information contact:
Office of Associate Director, Ecosystems
U.S. Geological Survey
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
Reston, VA 20192

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Suggested citation:

Williams, B.K., Wingard, G.L., Brewer, Gary, Cloern, J.E., Gelfenbaum, Guy, Jacobson, R.B., Kershner, J.L., McGuire, A.D., Nichols, J.D., Shapiro, C.D., van Riper III, Charles, and White, R.P., 2013, U.S. Geological Survey Ecosystems Science Strategy—Advancing discovery and application through collaboration: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1383–C, 43 p.



About this Report

Executive Summary


Ecosystem Science Goals

Integrating Ecosystem Science across the USGS

Strategic Approaches and Outcomes: The Path Forward

Proposed Actions

Summary and Future of Ecosystem Science for the USGS

Important Next Steps

References Cited

Appendix 1. Author Affiliations and Acknowledgments

Appendix 2. Key Terms

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