Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School


First Advisor

Darrell Napton


Black Hills ecoregion, ecosystem services, score-based assessment, land use management, drivers, land cover changes, aerial photographs


Environmental degradation generated by land use choices and human activities is the first driver of change in the provision of ecosystem goods and services. One of the challenges in ecosystem services research is to evaluate the contribution of each land cover unit to ecosystem services delivery while considering multiple services. In this thesis, I develop a framework to assess the capacity of many land covers to independently produce ecosystem services (i.e., potential production) and the capacity of the whole landscape to deliver multiple services to the population (i.e., potential supply). In the first part, this methodology is used to report on the change in ecosystem services delivery in the Black Hills ecoregion resulting from land cover modifications over a 60-year period. The trajectories of change in the Black Hills land cover are quantified using manual land cover mapping on aerial photographs from circa 1950 and circa 2010. In the second part, the same methodology is applied to the Black Hills National Forest, Custer State Park, and Wind Cave National park, in order to compare different management systems in the Black Hills and their implications for ecosystems services delivery over time. Although the trends of changes vary among the case studies following management directions and actions, most of the land cover conversions from 1950 and 2010 occurred on public land and affected ecosystem services delivery by the landscape. The three major net land cover changes were a loss of dense forest, a gain of medium and open forests, and a decrease in grassland/shrubland area. Even though the main drivers of change were not always human-induced, managers have been working to restore ecosystems, enhance their functionalities, and thus have been moving the landscape toward a higher level of ecosystems services delivery. By identifying the relationships between past and current land management, land cover changes and their drivers, and ecosystem services, this study contributes to a better understanding of land management results and their impacts upon Black Hills ecoregion sustainability and ecosystem services delivery.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Ecosystem services -- Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.)
Landscape changes -- Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.) -- History
Land cover -- Environmental aspects -- Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.)


Includes bibliographical references (pages 140-147)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2013 Suzanne Cotillon