The impact of storm surge from successive hurricanes on the Alabama beach mouse population
Global environmental change affects plants and animals by changing their distributions and phenology, and altering ecosystem functions. Already endangered plants and animals subject to these changes may be more vulnerable to extinction. It is important to understand how species are likely to respond to environment change so that proper steps can be taken to protect them in the future. This thesis observes the case of the Alabama beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus ammobates), a population endangered initially because of habitat loss and fragmentation. The Alabama beach mouse population likely will be negatively affected by environmental change through increased hurricane frequency and intensity. Using Alabama beach mouse trapping data provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I examined the storm surge effects of Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina on mouse populations before, during, and after these hurricanes. Analysis of the data was performed through contingency tables and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests. The results of the analysis show that the Alabama beach mouse has the ability to survive hurricanes in the future, if they are not successive. The Alabama beach mouse possesses certain traits that make it more vulnerable to extinction in the near future by environmental change, such as greater than normal disturbances both from humans (i.e. habitat loss and fragmentation) and the natural environment (i.e. hurricanes and climate change.) I postulate that the Alabama beach mouse population will be completely extirpated from Gulf Shores in the event of successive major hurricanes in the future. The intended result of this study is not only to find out how the Alabama beach mouse may be affected by global environmental change, but to contribute to the literature concerning the species to be used in effective management strategies.