Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
I studied translocation of Texas horned lizards on Tinker Air Force Base, Midwest City, Oklahoma, using correlative and mechanistic habitat suitability models. My goals were broadly classified into two categories: first, to determine if the addition of mechanistic data layers (i.e., habitat-niche models) in a correlative model improved the overall accuracy of model predictions, and second, to apply the best model produced from my dataset to a planned translocation event on Tinker Air Force Base. Correlative data layers (i.e., habitat models) included typically applied datasets such as vegetative components, Euclidean distance statistics, neighborhood analyses, and topographically-derived information. Mechanistic data layers were estimates of thermal suitability derived from field-collected datasets and biophysical calculations, and estimates of prey availability taken from interpolated datasets. I estimated habitat suitability using the partitioned Mahalanobis distance statistic, which is a suitable model technique for presence-only data. Translocated and resident lizards were monitored via radiotelemetry and using fluorescent powder trails. Telemetry locations and powder trails were overlaid onto habitat suitability models to provide the datasets used to quantify interaction between site occupancy and habitat model predictions. Lizard paths were tested against random walk models to determine efficiency of travel, and site occupancy metrics (powder track and telemetry Mahalanobis distance values) were tested using parametric (repeated-measures ANOVA) and nonparametric (Wilcoxon rank-sum and signed-rank tests) tests. Mechanistic data layers did not substantially improve model accuracy over correlative-only layers, and data layers taken from mixed bare soil-vegetation, shrub, and grassland habitat types dominated important eigenvector weights. Analyses of fluorescent powder track data suggested that lizards did not move through habitat differently from a random walk model, potentially due to neighborhood factor loadings strongly influencing the area in which entire trails traveled. Wilcoxon tests and repeated-measures ANOVA results suggested that although lizards experienced different median Mahalanobis distance values by group (translocated, resident), there appeared to be an overall decrease in distance scores for translocated individuals over time. In this context, translocated individuals seemed to acclimate their behavior to areas that were predicted to be more suitable by Mahalanobis classifiers. Although survival results were not encouraging and habitat models did not suggest that my translocation site was ideal, my data supports the idea that translocations may be aided in the future by modeling efforts. My models suggest that mechanistic data layers may not improve classification accuracy over correlative processes, but this may be due to inaccurate representation of specific mechanisms over spatial and temporal scales. Future work should focus on including more explicit measures of mechanisms, as well as broadening biotic influences on species distributions (i.e., predator distribution, intra- and interspecific competition).
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