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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Jonathan A. Jenks


mammals, south dakota, geographical distribution, habitat, conservation


The decline in worldwide biodiversity has raised concern over the future of natural biological systems. Conservation of these systems may be the only means of slowing this decline. The Gap Analysis Program (GAP) was implemented to form a comprehensive view of the United States' biodiversity using geographical information systems (GIS), current biological information, and predictive habitat modeling. In this program, predicted habitat for each species is compared to protection offered from public lands, identifying species that are not adequately protected (i.e., have "gaps" in protection). Then, conservation may be suitable for unprotected species. South Dakota's Gap Analysis Project began in 1997 with information gathered on vegetation, vertebrates, and public lands of South Dakota. The objectives of this study were: (1) develop distribution maps and habitat models for the mammals of South Dakota; (2) conduct expert review of these maps and models; (3) create species richness maps; and (4) perform gap analysis of habitat models. Due to a lack of small mammal data, trapping surveys were implemented in 1998, and data was included in range maps. Analyses showed that small mammals were more abundant in eastern than western South Dakota, possibly due to higher soil productivity. Gap analysis was performed using GIS techniques and coverages (i.e., land cover classification, range maps, habitat models, stewardship). Land-cover classification resulted in 35 categories, including 9 grassland, 3 shrubland, 1 dwarf-shrubland, 2 woodland, 5 forest, 6 water or wetland, 3 barren or badland, and 6 disturbance categories. Land cover classification accuracy for eastern South Dakota was 85.6%. Range maps were created for 88 mammal species and used to evaluate species richness by order, feeding guild, and size. Mammal richness was greatest in the Black Hills with 60-61 of the 88 South Dakota species present. Most of South Dakota contained between 42 and 47 species, but the lowest richness was found in north-central South Dakota. Mammal habitat models were created for 88 species; 20 required limiting the species distribution using ancillary data, including soils, elevation, or wetland buffers. The stewardship layer resulted in 20 land ownership categories. Over 70% of South Dakota was privately owned and managed. Federal and state entities owned about 9.5% and 2.1 % of South Dakota, respectively. Greater than 85% of South Dakota was classified as Status 4 stewardship (land not included in a mangement plan and categorized as unprotected). Gap analysis indicated that <5% of land-cover types were protected from conversion to unnatural cover types. Three land-cover types (burned pine, vegetated badlands, and unvegetated badlands) had greater than 10% of their land area in Status 1 and 2 (lands with a management plan and categorized as protected from conversion). Mammal habitat models determined that 4 species (black-footed ferret, mountain goat, mountain sheep, and western jumping mouse) had greater than 5% of their distribution in Status 1 and 2 stewardship. The landcover map was a useful tool but had limitations. Satellite imagery used to produce this map was collected in 1991, 1993, and 1995, and changes have occurred on the landscape in the last decade. Nevertheless, updates to this classification may be useful for temporal analysis of landscape change. Land cover map accuracy was 85.6%, but some categories were less accurate than others. Understanding variation in category accuracy before using the map for applications is necessary for accurate interpretation of results. Mammal range maps offered specific distribution information inside general range boundaries. Total mammal richness in South Dakota was highest in the Black Hills, which may be due to an increase in vegetational complexity or elevation, or a decrease in the risk of predation. Mammal habitat models can be used to locate areas of suitable habitat for a species; sampling may be useful to determine new species occupying an area. South Dakota's stewardship contained more private land than 4 states examined - Status 4 comprised greater than 85% of the land area. South Dakota ranked lowest of the reviewed states in protection for both land-cover types and mammal models. Therefore, the majority of South Dakota's land cover types were vulnerable, and mammal species were not protected from extinction. Five areas in South Dakota were examined in an attempt to protect at least 10% of land cover types while protecting the maximum number of mammal species, including rare species.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Mammals -- South Dakota -- Geographical distribution
Mammals -- South Dakota -- Geographical distribution -- Maps
Mammals -- Habitat -- South Dakota
Gap analysis (Conservation biology)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2001 Vickie J. Smith. All rights reserved.