Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Alabama
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Alabama Project

Mapping the distribution of longleaf ecosystems for herpetofauna conservation

August 2007 - August 2010


Participating Agencies

  • USFWS Region 4

Over the last two centuries, the longleaf pine ecosystem has been dramatically altered by logging, replanting with other pine species, and fire suppression. This reduction in habitat has affected numerous birds, reptiles, and amphibians. The best known example of this is the red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), a federally endangered species that inhabits old growth longleaf pine woodlands. The gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) is another longleaf pine inhabitant. It is listed as federally threatened west of the Mobile and Tombigbee rivers in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1990). The black pine snake (Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi) is also a longleaf ecosystem inhabitant and a species whose abundance is in decline. Successful management of both the gopher tortoise and the black pine snake requires knowledge of the current distribution of the longleaf pine ecosystem. The goal of this project is to assess what is mapped and what can be improved in the Hogland Longleaf Pine Ecosystem Map for the purpose of enhancing the ability to manage and conserve the gopher tortoise and black pine snake. Additionally, we intend to relate gopher tortoise burrow density to the improved predicted probability map. Our specific hypotheses: 1. Hogland's (2005) work accurately maps the occurrence of longleaf pine woodlands. If hypothesis 1 is shown to be false then: 2. The accuracy of the map can be improved with addition of soils and landform information. 3. The inaccuracy of the data is related to the distribution and scope of the field sampling effort. 4. Gopher tortoise population densities are related to the same characteristics that are used to map longleaf pine woodlands. Objectives: � Determine the accuracy of the longleaf ecosystem map created by Hogland (2005) across its range in the Gulf Coastal Plains of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. � Determine whether the accuracy of the map can be further improved by incorporating information on soils (STATSGO) or landform � Determine whether FIA and USDA Forest Service Continuous Inventory of Stands (CISC) data can be used to improve the accuracy of the map