Assessing current and projected suitable habitats for tree-of-heaven along the appalachian trail

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The invasion of ecosystems by non-native species is a major driver of biodiversity loss worldwide. A critical component of effective land management to control invasion is the identification and active protection of areas at high risk of future invasion. The Appalachian Trail Decision Support System (A.T.-DSS) was developed to inform regional natural resource management by integrating remote sensing data, ground-based measurements and predictive modelling products. By incorporating NASA's remote sensing data and modelling capacities from the Terrestrial Observation and Prediction System (TOPS), this study examined the current habitat suitability and projected suitable habitat for the invasive species tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) as a prototype application of the A.T.-DSS. Species observations from forest surveys, geospatial data, climatic projections and maximum entropy modelling were used to identify regions potentially susceptible to tree-of-heaven invasion. The modelling result predicted a 48% increase in suitable area over the study area, with significant expansion along the northern extremes of the Appalachian Trail. © 2014 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.

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Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences