The Northern Great Plains Inventory & Monitoring (I&M) Network (Network) of the National Park Service (NPS) consists of 13 NPS units in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and eastern Wyoming. The Network is in the planning phase of a long-term program to monitor the health of park ecosystems. Plant community composition is one of the 'Vital Signs,' or indicators, that will be monitored as part of this program for three main reasons. First, plant community composition is information-rich; a single sampling protocol can provide information on the diversity of native and non-native species, the abundance of individual dominant species, and the abundance of groups of plants. Second, plant community composition is of specific management concern. The abundance and diversity of exotic plants, both absolute and relative to native species, is one of the greatest management concerns in almost all Network parks (Symstad 2004). Finally, plant community composition reflects the effects of a variety of current or anticipated stressors on ecosystem health in the Network parks including invasive exotic plants, large ungulate grazing, lack of fire in a fire-adapted system, chemical exotic plant control, nitrogen deposition, increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, and climate change.
Before the Network begins its Vital Signs monitoring, a detailed plan describing specific protocols used for each of the Vital Signs must go through rigorous development and review. The pilot study on which we report here is one of the components of this protocol development. The goal of the work we report on here was to determine a specific method to use for monitoring plant community composition of the herb layer (< 2 m tall).
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Field-based evaluation of two herbaceous plant community composition sampling methods for long-term monitoring in Northern Great Plains National Parks