Date of Award

8-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Committee Member

Dr. Robert F. Baldwin, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Kyle Barrett

Committee Member

Dr. Patrick Gerard

Committee Member

Dr. Joan L. Walker

Abstract

Climate change continues to be one of the most challenging threats to global biodiversity and species persistence. In response, conservation design researchers and applied practitioners have recently begun to call for the identification of critical areas of stable climatic and environmental conditions that may preserve the platform of current climate dynamics, and promote the adaptation and dispersal of diverse taxa across the landscape. Due to their historically buffered and resilient features, climate refugia are considered valuable conservation targets that may function as robust bastions for climatically-sensitive endemic species. In this thesis research, I have worked to define the potential stability of refugia areas within the topographically-complex, and biologically-diverse Southern Appalachian Mountain region. Specifically, I developed a methodology that used regional-scale geographic and climate data in a geospatial context. To develop this novel application of multivariate control chart-based techniques to assess the stability of climate patterns at each site, I extracted temperature, precipitation, and topographic data from sites in the region, upon which statistical models of stable refugia on the mountain landscape were constructed. The resulting output was incorporated into a mapped representation of possible sites for conservation implementation. While many important academic research refinements are possible over the next several years, this research framework and these results will be of immediate value in prioritizing critical areas for rare and threatened species in this region. These technological advances will help inform geospatial modeling work in landscape-scale conservation design.

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