Extent of Alabama's terrestrial nature reserve system in representing ecosystem diversity: a coarse filter gap analysis

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University of Alabama Libraries

Numerous studies reveal that existing nature reserves do not effectively represent ecosystem diversity and biodiversity. In this study, Alabama's public and private reserve lands were analyzed to see how representative they were of biodiversity. The spatial distribution and characteristics of Alabama's nature reserves were examined using gap analysis, a technique used to assess the distribution of nature reserves. In Alabama, a gap analysis that includes public (including Department of Defense) and private nature reserves has not been conducted. This analysis had two objectives: 1) to examine the distribution and characteristics of nature reserves across ecoregions; and 2) to analyze where gaps in the Alabama nature reserve system existed and to characterize the drivers of the identified gaps in nature reserve coverage. GIS shapefiles of reserves were collected. A database featuring the total number of reserves, reserve ecoregion, reserve size, owner type (federal, state, local, landtrust), property type (public, private), and connectivity (distance between reserves) was created. Public property was comprised the majority of all nature reserve land area. However, private parcels were the most common land parcels in the four northeasternmost ecoregions (Interior Plateau, Southwestern Appalachians, Ridge and Valley, Piedmont). The two southernmost ecoregions (Southeastern Plains, Southern Coastal Plain) were predominantly comprised of public parcels. The results indicated that reserve lands cover the Southern Coastal Plain most effectively and Southeastern Plains and Interior Plateau the least. I hypothesized that the distribution of nature reserves based on property and owner type was influenced by race, socioeconomic status, and presence of cities. This study will fill a dearth in research and help researchers, private, state, and federal agencies to make well-informed decisions to set and meet conservation goals and policy.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Geography, Conservation biology, Geographic information science and geodesy