Providing Science for the Conservation of Animals in the Southeastern Longleaf Pine Ecosystem
Principal Investigator: Clint Moore, USGS Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Project Completion: December 2019. This project is now complete.
Implements Science Plan Theme: 2 and 4
The longleaf pine ecosystem in the southeastern U.S. supports several “at-risk” species that are currently undergoing status reviews by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to determine if they are threatened or endangered due to habitat loss and other threats. These include five reptile and amphibian species that are the focus of this work: the gopher tortoise, gopher frog, striped newt, southern hognose snake, and Florida pine snake. Their ranges occur within the Coastal Plain region of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Conservation partners are grappling with decisions about how best to improve the statuses of these species before declines are irreversible, and there is limited scientific information on which to base those decisions. To address this need, we used a collaborative approach with Federal, State, and other partners to assess current habitat conditions and population trends of each species and to predict risk of species extinction under future threats and management options. We compiled a database of over 72,000 species location records collected from field surveys by partners and from citizen science programs. From these data, we developed range-wide models and predictive maps of habitat suitability for each species. We assisted USFWS in conducting the official Species Status Assessment for the southern hognose snake where we used available datasets and expert judgment to estimate extinction risk under current conditions and future scenarios varying in degrees of urbanization, sea level rise, and management effort. Finally, we co-developed a decision-making framework for gopher frog conservation with partners to identify combinations of habitat and population actions that are predicted to best meet partners’ goals relating to long-term persistence of the species at the site-, state-, and range-wide scales. Collectively, our results can aid partners in implementing effective conservation strategies and inform status designation decisions of the USFWS.
This work built on the SE CASC project, Science to Support Adaptive Landscape Planning and Decision Making for Gopher Tortoise Conservation.