, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 393-403

Comparison of survey methods for an invasive plant at the subwatershed level

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Invasive plant survey methods that are practical and economical are needed to describe established colonies and detect nascent invaders. We compared results from random and roadside surveys of Alliaria petiolata (Bieb.) Cavara & Grande across a 5730-ha subwatershed. The random survey included 150 1-ha plots; the roadside survey examined 0.1-mile increments (10-m deep) along paved roads (totaling 1104 0.16-ha plots). In the random survey, agriculture was the dominant land use (49% of sampled area), and most A. petiolata patches were in wooded, shaded riparian, and waste areas (34%, 34%, and 29% of patches, respectively). In the roadside survey, right-of-way land use was dominant (38% of sampled area), and most A. petiolata patches were in right-of-way, wooded, and shaded riparian areas (53%, 22%, and 19% of patches, respectively). According to generalized linear model analysis, survey methods did not differ in the overall probability of finding A. petiolata (P=0.17 and 0.11 for random and roadside surveys, respectively). Shaded riparian, wooded, and mixed-species right-of-way land uses were the dominant habitat for A. petiolata in both surveys, but only the random survey indicated waste areas as significant habitat. Alliaria petiolata occurred mostly as small patches in roadsides, but as large patches in random plots, suggesting faster spread in the roadside. Results indicated that disturbed lands along roadsides were important for invasion and spread of A. petiolata; therefore, the roadside survey was a useful, practical method for detecting nascent invasions and management planning. The random sampling lacked a land use bias, and provided data that could be generalized across the subwatershed; however, this method required at least four times more person hours to complete than the roadside survey for a similar amount of area. Although roadside sampling did not provide a completely reliable assessment of target plant populations within the landscape, it may provide an adequate approximation, depending on the specific goals of the survey. Concurrent surveys would provide the most complete information.