Defense Date

2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Environmental Studies

Department

Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Greg Garman

Second Advisor

Will Shuart

Third Advisor

Daniel McGarvey

Fourth Advisor

Todd Lookingbill

Abstract

The (Plethodon nettingi) Cheat Mountain Salamander is a rare and endangered species that relies heavily on (Picea rubens) Red Spruce for habitat. P. rubens communities on the Cheat Mountain range in West Virginia have been disturbed by fires and logging, and regeneration of P. rubens stands are central to the survival of the P. netting. A supervised and unsupervised landscape classification of three Landsat images over the past 26 years was conducted to analyze change in P. rubens communities on Cheat Mountain Range. Change detection results revealed that from 1986-2012 a 52% growth increase of P. rubens stands, 18% loss, and 29% stayed the same over the last 26 years. P. rubens stands are vital habitat to the rare and endangered P. netting and regrowth of P. rubens is vital in restoring the habitat of the salamander on the Cheat Mountain. The regrowth of P. rubens on the Cheat Mountain range is critical to the survival of the P. nettingi. Identifying critical forest as it relates to salamander habitat is essential for conservation efforts. Since not all P. rubens stands are of equal significance to the P. nettingi, it is important to identify and map those that adhere to their stringent habitat needs as defined by forest fragmentation, aspect, slope, and lithology. I used spatial analysis and remote sensing techniques to define critical forest characteristics by applying a forest fragmentation model utilizing morphological image analysis, northeast and southwest aspects, moderate slopes, and limestone lithology. Patches were ranked based on this quantitative model and key P. rubens stands identified using spatial statistics. The results could aid in prioritizing research areas as well as conservation planning in regards to P. rubens and the P. nettingi. In this study, the MaxEnt modeling framework was used to predict habitat suitability for P. rubens under current conditions and under two future climate change scenarios. P. rubens distribution data was acquired from the U.S Geological Survey. Both the IPCC A1B and A2 emission scenarios of the HadCM3 global circulation model were projected to years 2040-2069 and 2070-2099. Results showed that a substantial decline in the suitability of future P. rubens habitat on the Cheat Mountain is likely under both climate change scenarios, particularly at lower elevations. By the end of the century, P. rubens is likely to be extirpated from the Cheat Mountain Range. By the end of century, the A1B and A2 scenarios predict the average habitat suitability for P. rubens on Cheat Mountain will be 0.0002 and 0.00004 respectively. Conservation as well as species migration efforts for P. rubens should be focused on areas such as Cheat Mountain to preserve this vital habitat.

Rights

© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2013

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