Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

5-12-2022

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biology

Advisor(s)

Dr. Heather P. Griscom

Abstract

Global climate change threatens many species across the planet. High-elevation species, such as red spruce (Picea rubens), face significant and immediate threats from climate change. Red spruce has faced anthropogenic disturbances for over a century and is only recently beginning to regenerate across its range, making it an ideal restoration candidate. Ecological niche modeling has become a common method of identifying the suitable habitat of a species, providing vital information to land managers carrying out restoration efforts. In this study ecological niche models were used in a novel way, predicting distribution and habitat suitability separately to determine the spatial extent to which red spruce can be restored. In addition to models, surveys were conducted to elucidate the current regeneration trends of red spruce. Furthermore, climate projections were used to determine how restoration potential may change over the course of the 21st century. Comparisons between distribution and habitat suitability models indicate that there is additional habitat available for red spruce to expand into. Regeneration surveys show that there is positive regeneration both within and beyond red spruce canopies, validating model comparisons. Climate change projections indicate total elimination of suitable habitat in Virginia by 2100. However, these projections likely predict increased competition for red spruce from low elevation competitors as opposed to physiological limitations imposed by climate change. It is therefore prudent to protect established populations and encourage further regeneration by planting in higher elevations where competition is more limited.

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