PRIORITIZING CONSERVATION AREAS FOR LONGLEAF PINE FORESTS IN NORTH CAROLINA: A spatial analysis of 3 major threats (fire suppression, urbanization, and climate change)
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Longleaf pine forest once dominated much of the landscape in the southeastern United States, but its distribution has been diminished to approximately 3% of its historical range. As a fire-dependent ecosystem, it is now widely accepted that prescribed burning is a necessary tool in longleaf pine management and restoration. In North Carolina, longleaf pine (LLP) forests currently managed with fire are concentrated in protected natural areas that tend to coincide with designated habitat for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, one of many federally endangered species dependent on LLP forests. While single-species management has proven highly successful for endangered species, conservation of broad ecosystems like LLP may require additional pieces for prioritizing management actions. My goal for this project is to spatially assess current conditions and future projections for three major threats to longleaf pine forests: fire management changes, urbanization, and climate change. I use Red-cockaded Woodpecker habitat requirements as a proxy to isolate healthy LLP patches in North Carolina that are outside designated protected area boundaries. With these unprotected patches, I first identify areas not currently managed with prescribed burning and thus inherently at risk; second, I isolate patches that are likely to be highly threatened by urbanization in coming decades; and third, I classify the patches by relative importance value and resilience to changing climatic conditions. Synthesizing these analyses yields a map of the total potential threat posed to the unprotected LLP patches given the current and future trends of these combined threats. As a naturally resilient ecosystem, longleaf pine has increasing importance in regional conservation. With thousands of acres of unprotected longleaf pine forest not currently managed with fire, targeting these patches for future fire management could considerably expand the extent of successfully managed longleaf pine forests in North Carolina.
CitationVorhees, Lauren (2015). PRIORITIZING CONSERVATION AREAS FOR LONGLEAF PINE FORESTS IN NORTH CAROLINA: A spatial analysis of 3 major threats (fire suppression, urbanization, and climate change). Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/9691.
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Rights for Collection: Nicholas School of the Environment