Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Nicholas J. Gotelli


Natural habitat in the eastern United States has diminished over the past century because of the effects of invasive species. Both plant and animal invaders can alter habitat structure and may decrease survival of native species. The degree to which an invasive species alters ecosystem function depends on the functional characteristics of affected species and the resulting cascading effects. The loss of important native species, such as foundation species, can potentially influence the structure and distribution of animal communities because of the foundation species' unique ecosystem roles. The foundation species concept is relatively new to the terrestrial ecology and the impact on animal communities resulting in the loss of terrestrial foundation species is generally unknown.

Eastern hemlock (Tsuga Canadensis), a foundation species in the eastern United States, is declining in abundance due to the invasive sap-sucking insect, hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae, Annand). The loss of hemlock may impact the distribution and microhabitat associations of dependent species such as small mammals. I hypothesized that the distribution, population size, community composition, and microhabitat associations of small mammal species differ in response to canopy disturbance from the effects of logging and invasive species.

In this dissertation, Chapter One provides an exploration of the past research conducted on 1) invasive species and how they affect habitat structure, 2) foundation species and how they affect ecosystem function, 3) small mammal habitat associations and population cycling, 4) occupancy modeling and its usefulness and limitations in the analysis of local occupancy, colonization rates, and extinction rates. Chapter Two presents a large-scale experiment on how the hemlock woolly adelgid impacts distribution and community assembly of small mammals. Chapter Three presents how forest disturbance, food resources, and habitat structure effects local colonization and extinction patterns of southern red-backed voles. Chapter Four presents how a paper published in 2005 brought the foundation species concept to terrestrial research and how the foundation species concept can be misleading in research.



Number of Pages

194 p.