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GIS-Based approach to predicting potential habitat for Gaultheria hispidula in McKean County, PA

Authors: Alexander Colosimo*, University of Pittsburgh - Johnstown
Topics: Geographic Information Science and Systems, Biogeography
Keywords: GIS, habitat modeling, rare plant species, creeping snowberry
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In environments that are changing constantly, it is important to keep biological inventories on rare, threatened, and endangered plant species, especially when the number one threat to plant species is habitat destruction. The goal of this study is to apply geographic information systems (GIS) to predicting potential habitat for Gaultheria hispidula (creeping snowberry) in McKean County, PA. Creeping snowberry is classified as a Pennsylvanian state rare plant, with a state rank of 3 (S3). Environmental parameters were chosen based on how well they modeled creeping snowberry’s preferred habitat, wetlands, bogs, fens, and wet meadows. Hydric rating, drainage class, and NWI wetland shapefiles were chosen as the environmental parameters. Using ESRI's geospatial desktop program, environmental parameters were layered to produce a final rank raster that models potential habitat that could be inhabited by creeping snowberry. Six known locations of creeping snowberry populations were obtained from the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program. Known locations were used to assess the model’s accuracy, and it was documented that four of the six populations were found within potential habitat. Field surveys could not be done to further assess this model because of time and seasonal constraints. To further validate this model, field surveys should be completed.

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