Determining habitat requirements and landscape factors for the decline of the southeastern pocket gopher (Geomys pinetis)
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
Forestry and Wildlife Science
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Southeastern pocket gophers (Geomys pinetis) are rodents of conservation concern endemic to open-canopy pine forests in the southeastern United States. Preserving habitat is critical for long-term conservation, but there is uncertainty about patch- and landscape-level variables influencing species presence. I hypothesized G. pinetis presence would be influenced by patch-level characteristics (e.g. canopy cover, ground cover). I tested this hypothesis using vegetation and presence surveys across the species’ range. Results indicated that G. pinetis presence is influenced by vegetation characteristics at multiple scales. However, many historically occupied areas with suitable vegetation no longer support populations. I hypothesized landscape factors such as fragmentation and urbanization negatively influence G. pinetis persistence. To test this hypothesis, I examined historically occupied sites with recent re-surveys to assess persistence. My results indicated that persistence was influenced by human development and other landscape characteristics. Conservation efforts should aim for areas with intermediate canopy and an herbaceous understory embedded in undeveloped landscapes. These results can information management-decision tools to prioritize areas for habitat manipulations, translocations, and restoration.