Date of Award

8-2004

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Geography

Major Professor

Henri D. Grissino-Mayer

Committee Members

Sally P. Horn, Ken H. Orvis

Abstract

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) is one of the foremost areas of biological research in the United States. The spatial and temporal aspects of the data collected in biological research provide many opportunities for implementing Geographic Information System (GIS) models. Many biological studies in recent years have sought to describe the relationships between organism distribution and habitat variables.

This thesis analyzes the spatial distribution of the land snail Vitrinizonites latissimus Lewis as an example of how GIS-based habitat suitability models can be derived from data collected in GSMNP. Seven habitat variables including slope, aspect, elevation, soils, vegetation, geology, and logging history were analyzed in relation to V. latissimus occurrence data to identify the primary components of the snail's habitat. The variables that were found to have an influence on the distribution of the snail (elevation, soils, and vegetation) were input into ArcGIS Spatial Analyst's raster calculator to derive the suitable habitat zones for the organism within GSMNP. Spruce-fir and northern hardwood forests, Breakneck-Pullback, Oconaluftee-Guyot Chiltoskie, and LufteeAnakeesta soil units, and elevations above 1400 m are the primary habitat characteristics for V. latissimus. There are 8,872 ha of optimal habitat conditions located in GSMNP.

The model procedures can be applied to all biological data collected in the park and will help park managers predict the effects of environmental degradation such as acid deposition or invasive species in the park. Habitat models will also provide park managers a way to predict the environmental impacts of developments in the park such as roads and parking lots. Models as described in this thesis can serve as an important tool for conservation biology in GSMNP and throughout the entire National Park system.

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