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Setting conservation priorities at the local scale: The threatened pitch pine-scrub oak communities of southeastern Massachusetts

Joanna Grand, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Pitch pine-scrub oak communities, commonly called pine barrens, are scattered throughout the northeastern United States and are severely threatened by development and fire suppression. The pine barrens of Plymouth and Barnstable Counties in southeastern Massachusetts together comprise the third largest area of this imperiled natural community remaining in North America. The region is also experiencing extremely rapid human population growth making it necessary to set realistic, local-scale conservation priorities. I used the pine barrens of southeastern Massachusetts as a case study for addressing a variety of issues of central importance for local-level conservation planning. To address these questions, I conducted both community and individual species analyses of bird and moth survey data collected at the Camp Edwards Training Site in Barnstable County. First, I examined the relative impact of plot, patch, and landscape factors on the distribution and abundance of the breeding bird and rare moth communities of Camp Edwards. I used partial canonical correspondence analysis to decompose the variance explained by each of these levels of environmental factors. For the bird community as a whole, landscape factors explained slightly more variance than plot factors, and patch factors were nonsignificant. Examination of individual bird species of conservation concern revealed that the distributions of the majority of these species were best explained by the landscape model. In the rare moth community, landscape factors explained more than twice as much variance as plot or patch factors, and the presence of host plants was significant only at the landscape level. The specific variables with the greatest influence on community structure are discussed. I then used logistic regression to develop individual species models for birds and moths of conservation concern based on patch and multi-scale landscape variables. I used these models to predict bird and moth rarity hotspots in southeastern Plymouth County. Results indicated (1) there was little congruence between bird and moth rarity hotspots; (2) the few overlapping hotspots occurred in and around Myles Standish State Forest; and (3) most hotspots were inadequately protected. The results suggest that multi-taxa, multi-scale approaches may be required for comprehensive conservation planning in pine barrens communities.

Subject Area

Ecology|Forestry|Environmental science

Recommended Citation

Grand, Joanna, "Setting conservation priorities at the local scale: The threatened pitch pine-scrub oak communities of southeastern Massachusetts" (2004). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3136732.