USGS Finds New Ways to Help Protect At-Risk Species

Scientists are using new and creative ways to help protect endangered and at-risk species and the ecosystems they -- and humans -- depend on for survival, according to a Jan. 12 press release.

This includes the use of new tools such as DNA testing to track grizzly bear movement and habitats; monitoring methods that enabled researchers to discover new freshwater habitats that endangered sea turtles use for survival in Everglades National Park; techniques to restore critically endangered freshwater mussels to their native habitats by raising them in laboratories and then releasing them into the wild; and innovative research to reduce the threats and restore the habitats of unique, endangered, and threatened plant species found only on California's Channel Islands.

"Conserving species has always been a top priority for USGS and its partners, but is even more important now because climate change alone may put 20 to 30 percent of all U.S. plants and animals at risk of extinction, in about 40 years, according to 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change," said USGS Imperiled Species Coordinator Rachel Muir. "These striking numbers do not take into account the additional threats of species loss from other sources such as accelerating urban growth, increasing demands for energy and other resources, and effects of contaminants and invasive species."

Highlights of new ground-breaking USGS research on endangered plants and animals has just been released in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a publication called the Endangered Species Bulletin. The Web version of The Bulletin is available at

Muir noted that conserving species diversity is the cornerstone of protecting global environments. "Once a species is lost, it is lost forever; science cannot restore or replace it. We know that species diversity is essential in making ecosystems work and provide the products that humans and all animals and plants need to survive -- clean air and water, food, fiber and medicines. Yet the role species play in ecosystems is still poorly understood."