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MODELING THE POTENTIAL FOR GREATER PRAIRIE-CHICKEN AND FRANKLIN’S GROUND SQUIRREL REINTRODUCTION TO AN INDIANA TALLGRASS PRAIRIE

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posted on 22.11.2021, 13:40 authored by Zachary T FinnZachary T Finn

Greater prairie-chickens (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus; GPC) have declined throughout large areas in the eastern portion of their range. I used species distribution modeling to predict most appropriate areas of translocation of GPC in and around Kankakee Sands, a tallgrass prairie in northwest Indiana, USA. I used MaxEnt for modelling the predictions based on relevant environmental predictors along with occurrence points of 54 known lek sites. I created four models inspired by Hovick et al. (2015): Universal, Environmental, Anthropogenic-Landcover, and Anthropogenic-MODIS. The Universal, Environmental, and Anthropogenic-MODIS models possessed passable AUC scores with low omission error rates. However, only the Universal model performed better than the null model according to binomial testing. I created maps of all models with passing AUC scores along with an overlay map displaying the highest predictions across all passing models. MaxEnt predicted high relative likelihoods of occurrence for the entirety of Kankakee Sands and many areas in the nearby landscape, including the surrounding agricultural matrix. With implementation of some management suggestions and potential cooperation with local farmers, GPC translocation to the area appears plausible.

Franklin’s ground squirrels (Poliocitellus franklinii; FGS) have declined throughout a large portion of the eastern periphery of their range. Because of this, The Nature Conservancy is interested in establishing a new population of these animals via translocation. The area of interest is tallgrass prairie in northwest Indiana, USA: Kankakee Sands and the surrounding landscape. Species distribution modelling can help identify areas that are suitable for translocation. I used MaxEnt, relevant environmental variables, and 44 known occurrence points to model the potential for translocation of FGS to Kankakee Sands and the surrounding area. I created four models inspired by Hovick et al. (2015): Universal, Environmental, Anthropogenic-Landcover, and Anthropogenic-MODIS. I created maps of models with passing AUC scores. The final map was an overlay map displaying the highest relative likelihood of occurrence predictions for the area in all passing models. Only the Universal and Anthropogenic-MODIS models had passable AUC scores. Both had acceptable omission error rates. However, none of the models performed better than the null model (p < 0.05). MaxEnt predicted that a few areas in and outside of Kankakee Sands possess high relative likelihoods of occurrence of FGS in both the Universal and Anthropogenic-MODIS models. However, MaxEnt predicted high relative likelihoods in the surrounding agricultural matrix in the Universal Model. FGS prefer to cross through agricultural areas via unmowed roadside instead of open fields (Duggan et al. 2011). Because of this, high predictions in agricultural matrices in the Universal model are irrelevant. High relative likelihood predictions for linear sections that are obviously roads are disregardable in the context of my modeling efforts. Because of my low sample size, none of the models are really reliable in predicting relative likelihoods of occurrence for this area. Despite high relative likelihood predictions, the appropriateness of a translocation effort to the area is inconclusive.

History

Degree Type

Master of Science

Department

Forestry and Natural Resources

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

John Dunning, Jr.

Additional Committee Member 2

Patrick Zollner

Additional Committee Member 3

Elizabeth Flaherty

Additional Committee Member 4

Jennifer Duggan