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Restoring Ozark Chinquapin

Using GIS to model suitability for species restoration


George Kipp
GEOG 32630
December 2013
Introduction
The chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica) was discovered in 1904, and within
50 years had brought native Chestnut species (Castanea spp.) from eastern
deciduous forests (Sinclair et al. 1987). This had a profound effect on the
composition and ecology of hardwood forests as these species (C. dentate, C.
pumila, and C. ozarensis) were major components of the overstory in these forests
(Campbell et al. 1991, Chapman et al. 2006, and Paillet 1993). Additionally, the
mast provided by chestnut and chinquapin were important food sources to wildlife,
livestock, and humans (Segelquist and Green 1968 and S. Bost, personal
communication 30 April, 2013). There proved to be no effective biological or
chemical controls to stop or sanitize affected stands, and today, these species exist
only in relic stands that escaped the infection or in areas where the trees were
planted far outside the natural range (Sinclair et al. 1987).
Ozark Chinquapin (Castanea ozarkensis or Castanea pumila var. ozarkensis) was
once a major tree species in the Ozark forests of Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma
(Tucker 1975 and Paillet 1993).While Ozark Chinquapin is found at the western end
of the range for Castanea species, it was still severely impacted by the chestnut
blight. Forest inventory data from Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma show a
dramatic reduction in the stocking of chinquapin in its native range (Chapman et al.
2006, Hoagland and Buthod 2008, Paillet 1993, and Tucker 1975). Chinquapin
reproduces by both seed and by coppice, and thus is well suited to sites with
frequent disturbance. Chapman et al. (2006) also suggest that fire suppression and
an overall lack of disturbance may play a large role in the decline of chinquapin.
There are many restoration efforts underway today to restore chestnut and
chinquapin across their native range. One of the pioneers in this effort is the Ozark
Chinquapin Foundation, headed by Steve Bost, which has led the effort in the
Ozarks to breed and grow blight resistant strains of chinquapin. These hybrids are
typically crossed with the Chinese and Japanese Chestnuts, which have evolved with
resistances to the chestnut blight (Sinclair 1987 and S. Bost, personal
communication 30 April, 2013). The hybrids are showing great success and based
on in situ observation, are exhibiting very promising growth rates.
Developing blight resistant hybrids is an important step in species restoration;
however, there are many other objectives that need to be accomplished before the
overall goal is successful. The objective of this study is to determine suitable
planting locations for the hybrid seedlings. Without suitable habitat, the species
restoration effort will meet with little or no success. This presents a somewhat
paradoxical quandary because without a species to plant, suitable sites have little
value. These two objectives, however, are symbiotic, and can help researchers
develop and refine methodology and procedures to answer both questions.

Methods
Before locations for chinquapin restoration could be determined, factors affecting
the growth and survival of the species had to be determined. Based on in situ
observation and expert knowledge (S. Bost, personal communication 30 April,
2013), the criteria of: slope, aspect, average annual rainfall, distance to roads, land
cover, and soil were initially selected to develop weighted criteria for the suitability
analysis. After examining scientific research on chinquapin ecology, the criteria
were refined to include: slope, aspect, land cover, distance to roads, landform, and
ownership. The criteria and suitable values are displayed in table 1.
Criteria

Suitable Values

Rationale

Slope

5 to 25 (10 to 15 preferred)

Species grows best on well drained


sites, but must have adequate soil
moisture.

Aspect

SE to W (S[180] to W[270]
preferred)

Species thrives on more xeric sites.

Land
Cover

Open fields to forest (forest and


Planting cannot occur in urban,
woodland preferred urban,
water, or agricultural land. Must be
water, and agricultural = NoData) free of disturbance and soil
compaction.

Landfor
m

Exposed backslopes and upland


complex preferred (Floodplains =
NoData)

Owners
hip

Public land only (Used as analysis Site must not be subdivided or


mask)
developed in the future. Restoration
requires long-term commitment.

Roads

1,000 to 5,280 feet from road


(1,500 to 2,500 feet preferred

Species grows well on xeric and


upland sites, typically found on the
upper parts of slopes.

Needs to be far enough from road to


avoid accidental discovery, but
close enough to allow for convenient
access to maintenance crews.

Table 1. Suitability criteria for Ozark Chinquapin (Castanea ozarkensis) restoration.

Slope and aspect


Slope and aspect drive much of the physical processes that affect tree growth and
survival. Steeper slopes tend to be better drained and have different soil
composition than flatter terrain, and are thus favored by tree species that can
tolerate a more xeric environment. Similarly, in the northern hemisphere, southerly
and westerly aspects tend to receive more direct sunlight for longer durations,
which also is favored by more xeric species. Both slope and aspect were calculated
from a 60 meter Digital Elevation Model of Missouri (MSDIS 2013). Slope and aspect
analysis was performed using the respective ArcGIS Spatial Analyst slope and
aspect tools. The results of the slope and aspect analysis were then reclassified into
weighted criteria according to the following table.

Slope
Weighted Value
Original Values
1
< 5 or >25
2
5 10
3
20 25
4
15 20
5
10 15

Aspect
Weighted Value
Original Values
1
Flat and N
2
NE and NW
3
E
4
SE and W
5
S and SW

Table 2. Slope and aspect model criteria.

Land Cover
Land cover is derived from satellite imagery and is used to delineate the various
conditions that cover the surface of the earth. A 30 meter land cover raster was
obtained from the Missouri Spatial Data Information Service (MSDIS 2013) that
divided land cover into 16 categories. These categories were resampled into a 60
meter grid, and then reclassified into weighted categories. The reclassification
scheme is shown in the table below.

Valu
e
1

Definition

Impervious

Reclassifica
tion

Value

High intensity
urban

NoData

Low intensity
urban

NoData

Barren or
sparsely
vegetated

Cropland

Grassland

Reclassificati
on

NoData
9

Definition

Mixed forest

10

Deciduous
woodland

11

Evergreen
woodland

12

Mixed woodland

Missing

13

Mixed wetland

NoData

14

Herbaceous
wetland

NoData

Deciduous forest

5
15

Evergreen forest

Water

NoData

3
NoData NoData

NoData

Table 3. Land cover criterion for suitability model.

Distance to Roads
The proximity of roads can provide convenient access for field crews, reduce
transportation costs, and help minimize unproductive labor from travel time. Roads
can also pose serious risks to a project as they can encourage motorized recreation
and trespass. On a sensitive project such as a plantation of an endangered species,
this can be a very real threat to success as carelessness or wanton vandalism can
destroy the seedlings when they are the most vulnerable. Therefore, a balance must
be achieved between productivity and protection. A road network was obtained
from MSDIS (2013) and the ArcGIS Euclidean distance tool was used to derive
distances to each road. The distances were then reclassified according to the
following table.
Old Values

Weighted Values

< 500

500 1000

1000 1500

1500 2000

> 2000

Table 4. Road distance criterion for suitability model.

Landform
Soil type was originally examined as a possible criterion for suitability; however,
analyzing the data proved to be unwieldy due to the massive file size, finely divided
data, and large project area. For example, there are 865 different soil types within
the project area, which is nearly unmanageable for processing. Generalizing the soil
data into soil order or parent material would have been an improvement, but the
Ecological Classification System set forth by Nigh, Nelson, and others (Nelson 2005,
Nigh and Schroeder 2002, and Nigh et al. 2010) provides an accessible framework
for evaluating ecological communities across a landscape.
The ecological classification system is a hierarchical classification system that
groups areas of similar landform, parent material, soils properties, and natural plant
communities (Nigh et al. 2010). The smallest classification is the ecological land
type phase (ELTP), which is typically 10 to 100 acres and provides a very detailed
description of site conditions. Landform was chosen for the suitability analysis

because chinquapin, as will most species, will grow across a wide variety of ELTPs,
however, most species seem to find niches at the landform level. The following
figure from Nigh et al. (2010) provides clarification of the ecological classification
process.

Figure 1. Ecological classification system taken from Nigh et al. (2010).

The data for ecological classification was dissolved into common landforms using
the dissolve data management tool in ArcGIS. This data was then converted from
vector shapefiles into a 60 meter grid and reclassified into weights for the suitability
analysis. The reclassification scheme is presented in the table below.
Landform
Exposed Backslope
Exposed Backslope And
Exposed Cliff
Exposed Cliff And Exposed
Backslope
Exposed Talus And Exposed
Backslope And Exposed Cliff
Exposed Talus And Exposed
Cliff
Footslope/ High Terrace
Footslope/ High Terrace And
Exposed Backslope
Footslope/ High Terrace And
Protected Backslope
Footslope/ High Terrace And
Sinkhole
Footslope/ High Terrace And
Upland Complex
Footslope/ High Terrace And
Upland Drainageway
High Floodplain
Low Floodplain
Low Floodplain And High
Floodplain
N/A
N/A And Low Floodplain
N/A And Upland Complex
Protected Backslope
Protected Backslope And
Exposed Backslope
Protected Backslope And
Protected Cliff
Protected Talus And Protected
Backslope And Protected Cliff
Protected Talus And Protected
Cliff
Sinkhole
Sinkhole And Upland Complex
Summit
Terrace
Terrace And High Floodplain
Terrace And Low Floodplain

Original Value
5
6

Reclassified Value
5
NoData

NoData

NoData

NoData

4
3

4
3

NoData

9
10
11

NoData
NoData
NoData

12
13
3
3
4

NoData
NoData
3
3
4

14
1
5
3
15
16

NoData
1
5
3
NoData
NoData

Landform
Terrace And Upland
Drainageway
Upland Complex
Upland Complex And
Footslope/ High Terrace
Upland Drainageway
Upland Drainageway And
Footslope/ High Terrace
Upland Drainageway And
Footslope/ High Terrace And
Upland Complex
Upland Drainageway And Low
Floodplain
Upland Drainageway And
Terrace

Original Value
1

Reclassified Value
1

5
4

5
4

1
1

1
1

17

NoData

18

NoData

Table 5. Landform reclassification for the suitability model.

Ownership
Public lands are the most ideal areas for this type of restoration project due to their
stability and low risk of transfer or subdivision. Private partners are important for
the success of any restoration project, but due to the infancy of the restoration
effort, care must be taken to ensure that project areas remain undisturbed and
sustainably managed for the lifespan of the species, which can exceed a century.
This type of commitment can be difficult to obtain from subsequent property owners
or heirs, thus initial restoration efforts will have the best chance of success if they
are established on public lands. A shapefile of public lands was obtained from the
ecological classification system (Nigh et al. 2010). The data was then converted to a
60 meter grid and used as an analysis mask. Further refinements of this model will
classify the land by agency and use that as a method to further refine the suitability
model.
Weighted Overlay
The weighted overlay tool in ArcGIS was used to perform the weighted suitability
analysis. Each criterion was assigned a weight as to determine the optimal locations
from chinquapin restoration efforts. The weights used for the suitability model are
displayed in the graph below.

Weights assigned to criteria for chinquapin restoration

10%

Landform

10%
40%

20%

Land Cover
Aspect
Slope

20%

Road Distance

Figure 2. Criteria weights for suitability model.

Results
The results of the weighted suitability model display areas of public land that are
ranked from 1 (least suitable) to 5 (most suitable). A brief examination of the data
for Carter County was logically consistent with what would be expected. Streams,
floodplains, marshes, and other hydric areas were ranked very low are excluded
from the analysis. Roads, settlements, buildings, and other impervious structures
were also excluded from the analysis. Additionally, sites that would logically seem
like good restoration sites, such as igneous glades, were generally weighted very
high. The results of the suitability model are displayed in the figure below.

Figure 3. Suitable Ozark chinquapin restoration sites in the interior Ozarks.

In the next phase of analysis, counties will be examined individually and those
locations will disseminated to local agency managers for work planning and
coordinated restoration efforts.
Conclusions
One of the greatest difficulties in determining criteria for suitability, and then
ranking those criteria, is the overall lack of information regarding the ecology of
Ozark Chinquapin. This is mainly due to the Chestnut Blight reducing the occurrence
of the genus to such low levels that the species are regarded as relics and historical
curiosities. As Paillet (1993) states, The ecology and life history of chestnut are
mostly ignored by modern textbooks because the species is no longer considered
important. Also, most of the modern research that is conducted on Chestnut and
Chinquapin focuses on genetics or breeding, in order to develop better varieties of
blight resistance. While this is extremely important research, there is an overall lack
of knowledge and research on the ecology and habitat of the species. This will
inevitably lead to a paradoxical situation where strains are developed that are
immune to disease, but no one will know where to plant them or how to tend to
them.

More research is needed on the site factors that comprise quality growing sites;
which will be the best places for successful reintroduction. One method of deriving
better model results would be to convene a panel of experts and solicit suitability
criteria from them. The suggestions of a panel of experts could then be used to
further hone the suitability criteria and derive better estimates of suitable sites. The
results of the refined model can then be used in an iterative manner to help find
areas for traditional forestry research on plant response and survival. Both of these
objectives, suitability analysis and hybrid development, are a part of the overall
goal of restoring chestnut and chinquapin, which itself is a goal in the overall
framework of natural community restoration.
References
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