We examined patterns of non-native plant diversity in protected and managed ponderosa pine/Douglas-fir forests of the Colorado Front Range. Cheesman Lake, a protected landscape, and Turkey Creek, a managed landscape, appear to have had similar natural disturbance histories prior to European settlement and fire protection during the last century. However, Turkey Creek has experienced logging, grazing, prescribed burning, and recreation since the late 1800s, while Cheesman Lake has not. Using the modified-Whittaker plot design to sample understory species richness and cover, we collected data for 30 0.1 ha plots in each landscape. Topographic position greatly influenced results, while management history did not. At both Cheesman Lake and Turkey Creek, low/riparian plots had highest native and non-native species richness and cover; upland plots (especially east/west-facing, south-facing and flat, high plots) had the lowest. However, there were no significant differences between Cheesman Lake and Turkey Creek for native species richness, native species cover, non-native species richness, or non-native species cover for any topographic category. In general, non-native species richness and cover were highly positively correlated with native species richness and/or cover (among other variables). In total, 16 non-native species were recorded at Cheesman Lake and Turkey Creek; none of the 16 non-native species were more common at one site than another. These findings suggest that: (1) areas that are high in native species diversity also contain more non-native species; (2) both protected and managed areas can be invaded by non-native plant species, and at similar intensities; and (3) logging, grazing, and other similar disturbances may have less of an impact on non-native species establishment and growth than topographic position (i.e., in lowland and riparian zones versus upland zones).
Additional publication details
Non-native plant invasions in managed and protected ponderosa pine/Douglas-fir forests of the Colorado Front Range