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Jouseau, M. 2005. Modeling the potential distribution of kittentails - a pilot study on element distribution modeling techniques. Final report submitted to the Natural Heritage and Nongame Research Program, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 40 pp.


The State of Minnesota Natural Heritage and Nongame Research Program is charged with the tasks of identifying biological resources of significance to the state of Minnesota and generally overseeing the protection of endangered, threatened species and species of concern. In addition the Program manages significant habitats owned by the State for the purpose of scientific research and the protection of significant species and communities. In the general national and local climates of fiscal austerity the Program, like many other agencies, must developed means and approaches to discharging their responsibilities that permit greater efficiencies to maximize the reduced level of financial resources allocated to them.

Staff of the Minnesota Natural Heritage and Nongame Research Program (Natural Heritage) proposed to investigate the usefulness of Element (Species) Distribution Modeling as an efficient means of mapping the potential of and surveying for occurrences of endangered, threatened and species of concern by undertaking a pilot project.

Element Distribution Modeling (EDM) has become a standard tool in the mapping of distribution of species in various parts of the World such as Australia, New Zealand and the state of Wyoming in the United States. Recognizing the usefulness of EDM, NatureServe, an international natural heritage conservancy organization, recently organized a series of training workshops to expend the use of this tool. Techniques for predicting the presence-absence of species have been extensively documented in the scientific literature starting in the mid 1980s (Tzilkowski et al., 1986; Slovan et al., 1996; Franklin, 1998; Ozemi & Ozemi, 1999; Guisan & Zimmerman, 2000; Guisan et al., 2002; Elith, 2002; Park et al., 2003). Practitioners such as Fertig applied the techniques to model the distribution of sensitive and threatened and endangered species in Wyoming (Fertig & Thurston, 2003; Jouseau applied logistic regression model and brought to light 14 new populations of Aquilegia jonesii in the Bighorn National Forest (Jouseau, 2005). EDM has been reported to result in greater efficiency in the delineation of species distribution (Hernandez, 2005) through assigning probabilities of occurrence of a species or community to every parcel of land of a modeled area thereby focusing field survey efforts on areas with high probability of occurrence, thus reducing the cost of surveying.

For the purpose of demonstrating the use of EDM, Natural Heritage staff selected the kittentail (Besseya bullii), a threatened species in Minnesota. Besseya bullii is unique to the Midwest where it has been recorded in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. The species is said to have been extirpated in Ohio and to now have minimal footholds in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. According to herbarium records for Minnesota, the known distribution of the species is centered on the seven counties of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area and the adjacent counties of Chisago, Goodhue and Rice, in addition to Morrison County about 90 miles northwest of Saint Paul and Renville and Cottonwood counties about 100 miles west-southwest of the Twin Cities. The presence of the taxon in Iowa and Wisconsin and the records northwest and south-southwest of the Twin Cities suggest that the species may have had a foothold in at least the southern 2/3 of Minnesota. The geography of the pilot study encompasses the seven metropolitan counties and the counties of Goodhue, Rice, Chisago and Isanti.

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