Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

T. Andrew Joyner

Committee Members

Josh X. Samuels, Eileen G. Ernenwein


Spruce-Fir forests are relicts from the Pleistocene and can only be found within the Southern Appalachians. Analyzing the relationships between species distribution, climatic parameters, topography, and biotic interactions through ecological niche modeling creates prediction maps for conservation efforts. Maxent, Boosted Regression, and Random Forest were utilized to compare which model and variable combinations best approximate the unique mountain forest environment. Maxent with a bias file produced optimal results and was used to examine distributional changes that may occur in the future and how these changes compare to paleo-environmental distributions. Fraser fir has shown evidence of being influenced by changing climates based on historical data and in future predictions. These findings show areas of decline in 2050 and 2070. When combined with weather, climate, genetics, and ecological studies, this is a useful tool for resource allocation to areas that are predicted to be resilient in the face of climate change.

Document Type

Thesis - embargo


Copyright by the authors.