Mapping Where No White Oak Has Gone Before

EarthzineDEVELOP Fall 2013 VPS, DEVELOP Virtual Poster Session, Original


Species distribution map of White Oak. Areas in red show high probability of the species occurrence where blue show low probability of species occurrence. Image Credit: Cumberland Ecological Forecasting Team, NASA DEVELOP National Program.

Team Location: Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama


Kel Markert, Project Lead (University of Alabama in Huntsville)

Amanda Weigel (University of Alabama in Huntsville)

Jean-Baptiste Kayitare (California Baptist University)

Timothy Reeves (University of Alabama in Huntsville)


Jeffrey Luvall, Ph.D. (NASA, Global Climatology and Hydrology Center)

Past/Other Contributors:

Robert Lawton, Ph.D. (University of Alabama in Huntsville)


This study examines the spatial distribution of white oak, a representative species for the Cumberland Plateau area, using different climatic and physical environmental parameters. The Cumberland Plateau is one of the most biodiverse regions in North America. Government and private agencies such as The Nature Conservancy and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are interested in purchasing land for conservation efforts in the region to support biodiversity and have partnered with the project. Partnering agencies are purchasing land and setting up preserves based on land availability and endangered species habitats. Using Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer derived Digital Elevation Models, Landsat 8 derived land cover, MODIS land surface temperature (LST), and WorldClim bioclimate data, the white oak’s potential distribution was modeled using the Maximum Entropy Species Distribution Model (MaxEnt). The outputs of this model include an image of the species optimal range based on the input data and the response the species has to certain environmental parameters. Modeling the species distributions has proven to be successful and illustrate accurately the distribution of white oak in the Cumberland Plateau. The results and methodologies provide enhanced decision support tools to The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to assist in their selection of criteria for areas in the Cumberland Plateau that are advantageous for purchasing for current climatic conditions. Future work will include modeling white oak distributions in future climatic conditions to assess how the changing climate will affect the dominant forest type of the Cumberland Plateau.

Return to the Fall 2013 VPS page.