Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Natural Resource Management

First Advisor

Charles Fenster


Unchecked human activity is contributing to rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions, changes in land use, altered disturbance/fire regimes, spread of invasive species, and loss of biological diversity and related breakdown of ecosystem services. Additionally, climatic shifts may lead to phenological mismatches between species and their environments if these changes outpace a species’ ability to adapt or migrate to a more suitable habitat. Isolated mountain populations are particularly threatened by unpredictable climatic conditions, as they may have limited migration corridors and often lower levels of genetic diversity to move or adapt, respectively. As these negative feedbacks compound on the landscape, there is a growing need to understand the ecological impact of rapid changes in terrestrial plant and animal communities. The Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming are surrounded by arid prairie ecosystems, offering an ideal system to study the impacts of climate change on isolated mountain taxa. To do so, I use various Species Distribution Modeling (SDM) approaches to model current and future suitable habitat of a “true boreal disjunct” species, Aquilegia brevistyla (Ranunculaceae; small-flowered columbine), a species listed as “S1: critically imperiled” in the state of Wyoming. Despite being recognized as a biodiversity hotspot within the northern Great Plains, the Black Hills are relatively understudied in terms of species distributions and genetic diversity. This study addresses a knowledge gap regarding how the distribution of a disjunct mountain species may shift at the continental scale under a changing climate and will inform management decisions moving forward.


South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright