Site suitability analysis of endangered species habitat areas for pesticide risk assessment: A case study of the red-cockaded woodpecker in the coastal plain counties of North Carolina

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Title: Site suitability analysis of endangered species habitat areas for pesticide risk assessment: A case study of the red-cockaded woodpecker in the coastal plain counties of North Carolina
Author: Moseley, Jordan
Abstract: Moseley, Jordan. Master of Environmental Assessment. Site suitability analysis of endangered species habitat areas for pesticide risk assessment: A case study of the red-cockaded woodpecker in the coastal plain counties of North Carolina The Environmental Protection Agency conducts ecological risk assessments in order to determine potential risk to endangered species from pesticides. Currently, species range maps generated by the Fish and Wildlife Service are used to determine where an endangered species could be found, and thereby, the potential for exposure to pesticide applications within that same area. However, these range maps cover broad areas that may not provide a completely accurate representation of where a species might actually be found. Alternative approaches could provide a more realistic estimate of exposure by refining the areas where a species would likely be found. This case study uses site suitability analysis with weighted overlay in GIS software in order to more accurately determine where the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker could be found in the coastal plain counties of North Carolina. Red-cockaded woodpeckers have very specific habitat requirements. They excavate and nest in living mature, longleaf pine trees that are greater than 80 years old. Data on vegetative land cover and forest age were obtained from the Southeast Gap Analysis Project and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, respectively. These data were processed in ArcMap 10.4.1 using weighted overlay to develop a rasterized map of the areas where the red-cockaded woodpecker could most likely be found. ArcMap area calculations found that the Fish and Wildlife species range map defines 13,377,518 acres of the coastal plain counties of North Carolina as suitable for red-cockaded woodpecker habitat. The weighted overlay approach used in this paper refined that area to 534,736 acres of suitable habitat. This significant change in area provides a more accurate estimate of where the red-cockaded woodpecker would likely be found. This information could be incorporated into pesticide risk assessments to improve exposure assessments. If biological data are available on a given species’ habitat preferences, weighted overlay and site suitability analysis could be used to refine habitat areas, and therefore, improve the accuracy of risk assessments for endangered species.
Date: 2019-05-07
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.20/36742


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