Biology ETDs


William Dunn

Publication Date



Conflicts between energy development and conservation of sympatric wildlife are becoming more acute as demand for energy increases. Resolving these conflicts is complex-- solutions must address the role of location, scale, and connectivity in persistence of populations. In Chapter 1, I use the MaxEnt species distribution model and pertinent climate variables to predict the natural distribution of the Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC) (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus), a prairie grouse adversely affected by habitat loss from energy development. Within the geographic range of LPC, precipitation was strongly associated with its distribution in the north, whereas temperature was strongly associated with its distribution in the south. Most of the geographic range did not possess optimal characteristics for population persistence. Climate characteristics were marginal in the southwestern part of the geographic range which has been subject to oil and gas extraction for 80 years. In Chapter 2, I introduce a spatially-explicit patch model and used LPC population counts and oil and gas data from southeastern New Mexico to investigate the effects of energy development on persistence of sympatric wildlife populations. Without protection, LPC went extinct within 100 years, although more conservative rates of energy development resulted in longer persistence times. Designating patches initially occupied by LPC as refugia resulted in population persistence for the entire 100 year period. However, several patches occupied initially became empty number because connectivity for colonization was destroyed by energy development. In Chapter 3, I develop and demonstrate a new security index based on majority rule renormalization. It provides a measure of security for patches of habitat as well as for the matrix between patches. This provides a foundation for determining the best corridors between habitat patches. In Chapter 4, I examine scaling relations within a riverine system in eastern Kansas. Hierarchical, self-organizing networks, as found in riverine systems, are increasingly recognized as a common topological framework of natural systems. This provides a new perspective through which to analyze and conserve habitat patches and corridors upon which metapopulations depend. Scaling relations may be particularly useful in addressing energy-wildlife conflicts through prediction of the effect of perturbations from energy development on metapopulation patch and corridor networks.




niche, competition, security, species distribution model, scale, connectivity

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Degree Name


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Department Name

UNM Biology Department

First Committee Member (Chair)

Brown, James

Second Committee Member

Collins, Scott

Third Committee Member

Wearing, Helen