Date of Graduation

5-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Biological Sciences

Advisor

Adam Siepielski

Committee Member

Kusum Naithani

Second Committee Member

Daniel Magoulick

Keywords

Anisoptera, climate change, conservation, Endemism, Interior Highlands, Species distributions

Abstract

A common pattern across many taxonomic groups is that relatively few species are widespread while the majority are restricted in their geographic ranges. Such species distributions are used to inform conservation status, which poses unique challenges for rare or cryptic species. Further, priority status is often designated within geopolitical boundaries, which may include only a portion of a species range. This, coupled with lack of distributional data, has resulted in species being designated as apparently rare throughout some portions of their range, which may not accurately reflect their overall conservation need. The Interior Highlands region of the central United States harbors a rich diversity of flora and fauna, many of which are regional endemics. Among these are four dragonfly species considered Species of Greatest Conservation Need: Ouachita spiketail (Cordulegaster talaria), Ozark Emerald (Somatochlora ozarkensis), Westfall’s snaketail (Ophiogomphus westfalli), and Ozark clubtail (Gomphurus ozarkensis). I combined species distribution modeling with field surveys to better understand the current biogeography for the two species with ample presence data (S. ozarkensis and G. ozarkensis). Additionally, models were used to project species’ distributions under two climate change scenarios of differing severity. To assess reliability of model predictions, I used two machine learning algorithms commonly used with limited, presence-only data. Current areas of suitability predicted by both algorithms largely overlapped for each species. An analysis of variable contribution showed congruence in important environmental predictors between models. Field validation of these models resulted in new detections for both species showing their utility in guiding future surveys. Future projections across two climate change scenarios showed the importance of maintaining current suitable areas as these will continue to be strongholds for these species under climate change.

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