Accuracy of GIS Data in Predicting Habitat Type For The Massasauga Sistrurus Catenatus

Document Type

Poster Session

Presentation Date


Conference Name

76th Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference

Conference Location

Grand Rapids, Michigan


Geographical information systems (GIS) are commonly used to evaluate wildlife habitat availability and extent. However, the value of this approach is dependent on the quality of the data being used. We present the results of an effort to assess the accuracy of commonly used spatial data. Historical Massasauga observations were placed into a GIS and population boundaries were delineated based on county orthoimagery, national land cover data (NLCD), national wetland inventory data (NWI), and the available literature. Points were then placed within the population boundaries and habitat type was characterized at each of these points using GIS data. During the summer of 2015, a subsample (about 50%) of these points were visited to determine the observed habitat type and quality for Massasaugas (ground validation). Chi-square tests were later used to determine if habitat assignments made in GIS were comparable to those made during ground validation. The proportion of different habitat types were independent of the method used. However, habitat type predictions were often observed to be incorrect and correct predictions were not independent of habitat type. We recommend ground validating any habitat classification or suitability assessment made in a GIS. We also suggest including potentially unsuitable habitat when mapping any species’ population boundaries using NLCD, NWI, and orthoimagery layers.


Habitat, Threatened and Endangered Species, Technology/Geographic Information Systems



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