Community characterization of high elevation central Appalachian wetlands
Francl, Karen Elizabeth
MetadataShow full item record
I examined multiple biotic and abiotic features of 20 wetlands in West Virginia and western Maryland. Wetland characterization data (vegetation, soils, hydrology, and geology) was collected to determine baseline measures for these regional wetlands. Small animals (mammals and herpetofauna) were intensively surveyed to obtain species distribution and abundance information. GIS analyses were implemented to determine the influence of landscape factors on mammal distributions across sites, and potential movement among sites, as estimated by meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus) genetic analyses. Results indicate that topography and geology appear to explain the presence and condition (vegetational composition) of these wetlands. Small mammal communities were influenced by wetland size and surrounding landuse type, but multivariate analyses indicated that landscape features were not strong predictors of mammal distribution. Meadow vole genetic analyses supported this conclusion, emphasizing that topography and past landuse practices were more influential on mammal distribution than current landscape features. My research highlights the importance of central Appalachian wetlands as uncommon but locally abundant boreal refuges that provide a multitude of services to the biological community. I also emphasize that past landuse practices must be examined to understand current wetland status and distribution in the central Appalachians.