Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), Colorado, USA, contains a diversity of plant species. However, many exotic plant species have become established, potentially impacting the structure and function of native plant communities. Our goal was to quantify patterns of exotic plant species in relation to native plant species, soil characteristics, and other abiotic factors that may indicate or predict their establishment and success. Our research approach for field data collection was based on a field plot design called the pixel nested plot. The pixel nested plot provides a link to multi-phase and multi-scale spatial modeling-mapping techniques that can be used to estimate total species richness and patterns of plant diversity at finer landscape scales. Within the eastern region of RMNP, in an area of approximately 35,000 ha, we established a total of 60 pixel nested plots in 9 vegetation types. We used canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) and multiple linear regressions to quantify relationships between soil characteristics and native and exotic plant species richness and cover. We also used linear correlation, spatial autocorrelation and cross correlation statistics to test for the spatial patterns of variables of interest. CCA showed that exotic species were significantly (P < 0.05) associated with photosynthetically active radiation (r = 0.55), soil nitrogen (r = 0.58) and bare ground (r = -0.66). Pearson's correlation statistic showed significant linear relationships between exotic species, organic carbon, soil nitrogen, and bare ground. While spatial autocorrelations indicated that our 60 pixel nested plots were spatially independent, the cross correlation statistics indicated that exotic plant species were spatially associated with bare ground, in general, exotic plant species were most abundant in areas of high native species richness. This indicates that resource managers should focus on the protection of relatively rare native rich sites with little canopy cover, and fertile soils. Using the pixel nested plot approach for data collection can facilitate the ecological monitoring of these vulnerable areas at the landscape scale in a time- and cost-effective manner. ?? 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Additional publication details
Assessing exotic plant species invasions and associated soil characteristics: A case study in eastern Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA, using the pixel nested plot design