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Assessing factors shaping the distribution of pawpaw (Asimina triloba) in western New York State

Authors: Steve Tulowiecki*, SUNY - Geneseo
Topics: Biogeography, Human-Environment Geography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: pawpaw, Native American, species distribution models, biogeography, land use
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a small- to medium-sized deciduous tree in eastern North America notable for its large edible fruit. Though its global status is stable, it is currently listed as vulnerable in New York State where there are 20 or fewer occurrences statewide. Factors affecting its distribution in New York State have been debated, with some suggesting that Native Americans dispersed, planted, and promoted pawpaw prior to European-American settlement. This research examines the factors shaping current pawpaw distribution in western New York State (NYS). Using species distribution models (SDM) and techniques for small sample sizes, this research models the distribution of pawpaw and assesses which factors are most important to its distribution. The research uses a dataset of pawpaw locations from the New York Natural Heritage Program. SDMs suggest that pawpaw is found in the warmest and driest areas of western NYS, on mildly acidic deep soils. Results suggest the importance of forest gaps and seed dispersal by water, since its distribution also appears to be correlated with distance to water bodies. The results lend some support to the argument that pawpaw distribution in New York State is related to past Native American settlement, specifically pre-1700 village locations. This research helps guide protection efforts for a vulnerable species found toward its extreme northern climatic limits.

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