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Fig. 3-1. Generalized tall fescue adaptation map for the United States (from Burns and Chamblee, 1979).
Traditional approaches to plant species suitability mapping have been based on hand-drawn maps involving a graphic artist and a plant specialist to define general zones of adaptation, using minimum temperature as the primary criterion (Burns and Chamblee, 1979; Fig. 3-1). Thus, maps have been general representations rather than specific decision-making tools. More recent efforts, such as the PLANTS database (USDA-NRCS, 2004) (see Chapter 27), typically define where species occurrence has been recorded but do not provide assistance with selecting new, potentially suited species or cultivars for an area. Advanced spatial analysis approaches involving Geographic Information System (GIS) software now allow for the creation of highly detailed and increasingly accurate species suitability maps based on biophysical characteristics of the region and plant characteristics (Hannaway et al., 2005a,b).