Habitat availability assessment for the Gulf Coast kangaroo rat (Dipodomys compactus) in south-central Texas
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As the human population increases worldwide, urbanization, habitat destruction, and habitat modification also increase. Recently the urbanization rate in Central Texas has become one of the highest in the nation. The consequential loss of natural habitat could jeopardize native wildlife species that are already somewhat limited in their distribution. Based on specialized life-history traits that limit large-scale mobility, kangaroo rats (Dipodomys spp.) have been found to be especially sensitive to urbanization-induced habitat modification and fragmentation. Dipodomys compactus is one of five kangaroo rat species found in Texas; this species has narrow, specific habitat requirements. Using a geographic information system (GIS)-based habitat suitability model, I determined that due to isolation among suitable habitat patches, actual D. compactus range in south-central Texas is highly fragmented, and the particular population in south-central Texas may be more isolated than currently thought. The assessment strategy of GIS habitat mapping can be broadly applied to other vulnerable species with similarly narrow habitat parameters to predict current and future management requirements.