Novel approaches to conservation biogeography across public and private lands




LeVine, Daniel Stephen

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Extensive land use change and global climate change present major threats to native ecosystems due to shifts in species ranges and the alteration of species assemblages through non-native species introductions. The conservation of these landscapes and associated biodiversity is pertinent and requires comprehensive biogeographic and ecological analyses that identify past, present, and future patterns of species distributions and ecosystem function. With an ever-increasing amount of spatial data related to species occurrences available through online citizen science platforms, the number and types of questions that can be answered related to conservation biogeography are rapidly expanding. However, spatial and taxonomic biases are known to exist in these datasets and the implementation of such data requires proper consideration. The application of these opportunistic datasets to conservation planning is further complicated by issues of access in settings with public/private land divides. The conceptual approach taken for this dissertation pulls from multiple subfields of environmental geography in order to adequately encapsulate the challenges inherent to local and regional scale conservation research and implementation. The assessment of a public/private landscape in the Texas Hill Country via satellite imagery and in situ vegetation surveys provides an example of spatially- and temporally- dynamic landscape assessment in a heterogeneous land tenure setting. The included spatial analyses of citizen science data investigate socioeconomic and demographic patterns in opportunistic species datasets and inform approaches to accounting for inherent spatial and taxonomic gaps in these data using the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexxipus) as a baseline species of analysis. Lastly, these studies are bridged together by an investigation of novel landscapes in Texas’ Blackland Prairies and the influence of exotic game ranching across Texas with discussion of the impacts of novel species assemblages and habitat fragmentation. The collected discussions and conclusions in this dissertation support recommendations for land managers and landowners and provide insight for conservation biogeographers working across spatially- and temporally- heterogeneous land tenure settings.


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