Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period

2-24-2016

Degree Program

Environmental Conservation

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded

2015

Month Degree Awarded

September

Advisor Name

Timothy

Advisor Last Name

Randhir

Co-advisor Name

Charles

Co-advisor Last Name

Schweik

Abstract

The Connecticut River watershed is experiencing a rapid invasion of aggressive non-native plant species, which threaten watershed function and structure. Volunteer-based monitoring programs such as the University of Massachusetts’ OutSmart Invasives Species Project, Early Detection Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS) and the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England (IPANE) have gathered valuable invasive plant data. These programs provide a unique opportunity for researchers to model invasive plant species utilizing citizen-sourced data. This study took advantage of these large data sources to model invasive plant distribution and to determine environmental and biophysical predictors that are most influential in dispersion, and to identify a suitable presence-only model for use by conservation biologists and land managers at varying spatial scales. This research focused on the invasive plant species of high interest - Japanese stiltgrass (Mircostegium vimineum). This was identified as a threat by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuge biologists and refuge managers, but for which no mutli-scale practical and systematic approach for detection, has yet been developed. Environmental and biophysical variables include factors directly affecting species physiology and locality such as annual temperatures, growing degree days, soil pH, available water supply, elevation, closeness to hydrology and roads, and NDVI. Spatial scales selected for this study include New England (regional), the Connecticut River watershed (watershed), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Salmon River Division (local). At each spatial scale, three software programs were implemented: maximum entropy habitat model by means of the MaxEnt software, ecological niche factor analysis (ENFA) using Openmodeller software, and a generalized linear model (GLM) employed in the statistical software R. Results suggest that each modeling algorithm performance varies among spatial scales. The best fit modeling software designated for each scale will be useful for refuge biologists and managers in determining where to allocate resources and what areas are prone to invasion. Utilizing the regional scale results, managers will understand what areas on a broad-scale are at risk of M. vimineum invasion under current climatic variables. The watershed-scale results will be practical for protecting areas designated as most critical for ensuring the persistence of rare and endangered species and their habitats. Furthermore, the local-scale, or fine-scale, analysis will be directly useful for on-the-ground conservation efforts. Managers and biologists can use results to direct resources to areas where M. vimineum is most likely to occur to effectively improve early detection rapid response (EDRR).