Species distribution modelling for conservation of an endangered endemic orchid. Academic Article uri icon


  • Concerns regarding the long-term viability of threatened and endangered plant species are increasingly warranted given the potential impacts of climate change and habitat fragmentation on unstable and isolated populations. Orchidaceae is the largest and most diverse family of flowering plants, but it is currently facing unprecedented risks of extinction. Despite substantial conservation emphasis on rare orchids, populations continue to decline. Spiranthes parksii (Navasota ladies' tresses) is a federally and state-listed endangered terrestrial orchid endemic to central Texas. Hence, we aimed to identify potential factors influencing the distribution of the species, quantify the relative importance of each factor and determine suitable habitat for future surveys and targeted conservation efforts. We analysed several geo-referenced variables describing climatic conditions and landscape features to identify potential factors influencing the likelihood of occurrence of S. parksii using boosted regression trees. Our model classified 97 % of the cells correctly with regard to species presence and absence, and indicated that probability of existence was correlated with climatic conditions and landscape features. The most influential variables were mean annual precipitation, mean elevation, mean annual minimum temperature and mean annual maximum temperature. The most likely suitable range for S. parksii was the eastern portions of Leon and Madison Counties, the southern portion of Brazos County, a portion of northern Grimes County and along the borders between Burleson and Washington Counties. Our model can assist in the development of an integrated conservation strategy through: (i) focussing future survey and research efforts on areas with a high likelihood of occurrence, (ii) aiding in selection of areas for conservation and restoration and (iii) framing future research questions including those necessary for predicting responses to climate change. Our model could also incorporate new information on S. parksii as it becomes available to improve prediction accuracy, and our methodology could be adapted to develop distribution maps for other rare species of conservation concern.

published proceedings

  • AoB Plants

author list (cited authors)

  • Wang, H., Wonkka, C. L., Treglia, M. L., Grant, W. E., Smeins, F. E., & Rogers, W. E.

citation count

  • 31

complete list of authors

  • Wang, Hsiao-Hsuan||Wonkka, Carissa L||Treglia, Michael L||Grant, William E||Smeins, Fred E||Rogers, William E

publication date

  • April 2015