Exotic annual grasses are transforming native arid and semi-arid ecosystems globally by accelerating fire cycles that drive vegetation state changes. Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), a particularly widespread and aggressive exotic annual grass, is a key management target in national parks of the western United States due to its impacts on wildfire and biodiversity loss. Cheatgrass is known for its high interannual variability and can grow in a wide range of conditions.
The objectives were to (1) map the presence and persistence of cheatgrass in national park units across a 11-year period using remote sensing, and (2) identify the biophysical parameters that correlate with cheatgrass persistence.
We used remote sensing and GIS tools to develop a systematic model to characterize the status and environmental correlates of cheatgrass invasions in seven national park units in the western United States.
On average cheatgrass covered 3.8% of park areas, each park ranging from 0.8 to 24.8% coverage. Where cheatgrass was detected, persistent populations across time (hotspots) made up on average 13% of cheatgrass areas. Hotspots were found in areas with deeper plant-available water, lower elevations, colder mean winter temperatures, flatter slopes, higher soil clay content, and lower mean fall precipitation.
Study results identified spatiotemporal patterns of plant invasions and key environmental drivers that influence invasion patterns. GIS tool development and analysis from this study were used to generate invasion maps for each park, which can be used to mitigate wildfire and biodiveristy loss.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Abella SR, Embrey TM, Schmid SM, Prengaman KA (2012) Biophysical correlates with the distribution of the invasive annual red brome (Bromus rubens) on a mojave desert landscape. Invasive Plant Sci Manag 5:47–56.
Ashton IW, Symstad AJ, Davis CJ, Swanson DJ (2016) Preserving prairies: understanding temporal and spatial patterns of invasive annual bromes in the Northern Great Plains. Ecosphere. https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.1438
Balch JK, Bradley BA, D’Antonio CM, Gomez-Dans J (2013) Introduced annual grass increases regional fire activity across the arid western USA (1980-2009). Glob Chang Biol 19:173–183.
Balch J, Schoennagel T, Williams AP, Abatzoglou J, Cattau M, Mietkiewicz N, St. Denis L (2018) Switching on the big burn of 2017. Fire 1:17
Belnap J, Prasse R, Harper K (2001) Influence of biological soil crusts on soil environments and vascular plants. In: Belnap J, Lange OL (eds) Biological soil crusts: structure, function, and management. Springer, Berlin, pp 281–300
Biganzoli F, Larsen C, Rolhauser AG (2013) Range expansion and potential distribution of the invasive grass Bromus tectorum in southern South America on the base of herbarium records. J Arid Environ 97:230–236.
Booth MS, Caldwell MM, Stark JM (2003) Overlapping resource use in three Great Basin species: implications for community invasibility and vegetation dynamics. J Ecol 91:36–48.
Bowman DMJS, Balch J, Artaxo P, Bond W, Cochrane MA, D'Antonio CM, DeFries R, Johnston FH, Keeley JE, Krawchuk MA, Kull CA, Mack M, Moritz MA, Pyne S, Roos CI, Scott AC, Sodhi NS, Swetnam TW (2011) The human dimension of fire regimes on Earth. J Biogeogr 38:2223–2236.
Bradford JB, Lauenroth WK (2009) Controls over invasion of Bromus tectorum: the importance of climate, soil, disturbance and seed availability. J Veg Sci 17:693–704.
Bradley BA (2009a) Accuracy assessment of mixed land cover using a GIS-designed sampling scheme. Int J Remote Sens 30:3515–3529.
Bradley BA (2009b) Regional analysis of the impacts of climate change on cheatgrass invasion shows potential risk and opportunity. Glob Chang Biol 15:196–208.
Bradley BA, Curtis CA, Fusco EJ, Abatzoglou JT, Balch JK, Dadashi S, Tuanmu M-N (2018) Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) distribution in the intermountain Western United States and its relationship to fire frequency, seasonality, and ignitions. Biol Invasions 20:1493–1506.
Bradley BA, Marvin DC (2011) Using expert knowledge to satisfy data needs: mapping invasive plant distributions in the Western United States. West N Am Nat 71:302–315.
Bradley BA, Mustard JF (2006) Characterizing the landscape dynamics of an invasive plant and risk of invasion using remote sensing. Ecol Appl 16:1132–1147.
Brooks ML, D’Antonio CM, Richardson DM, Grace JB, Keeley JE, DiTomaso JM, Hobbs RJ, Pellant M, Pyke D (2004) Effects of invasive alien plants on fire regimes. Bioscience 54:677–688.
Bureau of Reclamation n (2016) Report to Congress Operations of Glen Canyon Dam Pursuant to the Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992 Reclamation: Managing Water in the West
Chambers JC, Roundy BA, Blank RR, Meyer SE, Whittaker A (2007) What makes Great Basin sagebrush ecosystems invasible by Bromus tectorum? Ecol Monogr 77:117–145.
Christensen JH, Hewitson B, Busuioc A, Chen A, Gao X, Held R, Jones R, Kolli RK, Kwon UK, Laprise R (2007) Regional climate projections. In: Climate change, 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change, chapter 11. University Press, Cambridge, pp 847–940.
Cline JF, Uresk DW, Rickard WH (1977) Comparison of soil-water used by a sagebrush-bunchgrass and a cheatgrass community. J Range Manag 30:199–201.
Concilio AL, Loik ME, Belnap J (2013) Global change effects on Bromus tectorum L. (Poaceae) at its high-elevation range margin. Glob Chang Biol 19:161–172.
Craglia M, Haining R, Wiles P (2000) A comparative evaluation of approaches to urban crime pattern analysis. Urban Stud 37:711–729
D’Antonio CM, Vitousek PM (1992) Biological invasions by exotic grasses, the grass/fire cycle, and global change. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 23(1):63–87
Daly C, Gibson WP, Taylor GH, Johnson GL, Pasteris P (2002) A knowledge-based approach to the statistical mapping of climate. Clim Res 22:99–113.
D’Antonio CM, Thomsen M (2004) Ecological resistance in theory and practice. Weed Technol 18:1572–1577.
Davis MA, Grime JP, Thompson K (2000) Fluctuating resources in plant communities: a general theory of invasibility. J Ecol 88:528–534.
Deines L, Rosentreter R, Eldridge DJ, Serpe MD (2007) Germination and seedling establishment of two annual grasses on lichen-dominated biological soil crusts. Plant Soil 295:23–35.
Dukes JS, Mooney HA (1999) Does global change increase the success of biological invaders? Trends Ecol Evol 14:135–139
Duncan CA, Jachetta JJ, Brown ML, Carrithers VF, Clark JK, DiTomaso JM, Lym RG, McDaniel KC, Renz MJ, Rice PM (2004) Assessing the economic, environmental, and societal losses from invasive plants on rangeland and wildlands. Weed Technol 18:1411–1416.
Elmore AJ, Mustard JF, Manning SJ (2003) Regional patterns of plant community response to changes in water: owens Valley. Calif Ecol Appl 13:443–460.
ESRI (2011) ArcGIS Desktop: Release 10.3. Environmental Systems Research Institute, Redlands
Fick SE, Decker C, Duniway MC, Miller ME (2016) Small-scale barriers mitigate desertification processes and enhance plant recruitment in a degraded semiarid grassland. Ecosphere 7:e01354.
Gelbard JL, Belnap J (2003) Roads as conduits for exotic plant invasions in a semiarid landscape. Conserv Biol 17:420–432.
Germino MJ, Chambers JC, Brown CS (2015) Exotic brome-grasses in arid and semiarid ecosystems of the western US. Springer, Cham
Gill RA, Oconnor RC, Rhodes A, Bishop TB, Laughlin DC, St. Clair SB (2018) Niche opportunities for invasive annual plants in dryland ecosystems are controlled by disturbance, trophic interactions, and rainfall. Oecologia 187:1–11.
Griffith AB, Loik ME (2010) Effects of climate and snow depth on Bromus tectorum population dynamics at high elevation. Oecologia 164:821–832
Hillel D (1998) Environmental soil physics: fundamentals, applications, and environmental considerations. Elsevier, New York
Hollander M, Wolfe DA, Chicken E (2013) Nonparametric statistical methods, vol 751. Wiley, Hoboken
Horn KJ, Bishop TBB, St. Clair SB (2017) Precipitation timing and soil heterogeneity regulate the growth and seed production of the invasive grass red brome. Biol Invasions 19:1339–1350.
Horn KJ, Nettles R, St Clair SB (2015) Germination response to temperature and moisture to predict distributions of the invasive grass red brome and wildfire. Biol Invasions 17:1849–1857.
Horn KJ, St Clair SB (2017) Wildfire and exotic grass invasion alter plant productivity in response to climate variability in the Mojave Desert. Landscape Ecol 32:635–646.
Institute SAS (1990) SAS/STAT user’s guide: version 6, vol 2. Sas Institute, Cary
JMP Pro (1989–2012) v13 Cary, NC: SAS
Knapp PA (1996) Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) dominance in the Great Basin Desert: history, persistence, and influences to human activities. Glob Environ Chang 6:37–52
Kokaly RF (2011) Detecting cheatgrass on the Colorado Plateau using Landsat data: a tutorial for the DESI software. US Geol Surv Open File Rep 2010(1327):88
Levine JM, Vila M, D’Antonio CM, Dukes JS, Grigulis K, Lavorel S (2003) Mechanisms underlying the impacts of exotic plant invasions. Proc R Soc B 270:775–781.
Maciel EL, Pan W, Dietze R, Peres RL, Vinhas SA, Ribeiro FK, Palaci M, Rodrigues RR, Zandonade E, Golub JE (2010) Spatial patterns of pulmonary tuberculosis incidence and their relationship to socio-economic status in Vitoria, Brazil. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis 14:1395–1402.
Mack RN (2010) Fifty years of ‘Waging war on cheatgrass’: research advances, while meaningful control languishes. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, pp 253–265
Mack RN, Pyke DA (1983) The demography of Bromus Tectorum—variation in time and space. J Ecol 71:69–93.
Mack RN, Simberloff D, Lonsdale WM, Evans H, Clout M, Bazzaz FA (2000) Biotic invasions: causes, epidemiology, global consequences, and control. Ecol Appl 10:689–710.
Marschner H (1983) General introduction to the mineral nutrition of plants. In: Lauchli A, Bieleski RL (eds) Inorganic plant nutrition. Springer, Berlin, pp 5–60
Mazzola MB, Chambers JC, Blank RR, Pyke DA, Schupp EW, Allcock KG, Doescher PS, Nowak RS (2011) Effects of resource availability and propagule supply on native species recruitment in sagebrush ecosystems invaded by Bromus tectorum. Biol Invasions 13:513–526.
McMichael BL, Quisenberry JE (1993) The impact of the soil environment on the growth of root systems. Environ Exp Bot 33:53–61.
Melgoza G, Nowak RS, Tausch RJ (1990) Soil water exploitation after fire: competition between Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass) and two native species. Oecologia 83:7–13.
Meyer SE, Allen PS, Beckstead J (1997) Seed germination regulation in Bromus tectorum (Poaceae) and its ecological significance. Oikos 78:475–485
Meyer SE, Leger EA, Eldon DR, Coleman CE (2016) Strong genetic differentiation in the invasive annual grass Bromus tectorum across the Mojave-Great Basin ecological transition zone. Biol Invasions 18:1611–1628.
Miller ME (2018) Early season invasives mapping 2001-2010, Washington County, Utah, USA. https://doi.org/10.5066/p9QEJGD8
Miller ME, Belnap J, Beatty SW, Reynolds RL (2006) Performance of Bromus tectorum L. in relation to soil properties, water additions, and chemical amendments in calcareous soils of southeastern Utah, USA. Plant Soil 288:1–18.
Morgan RPC (2009) Soil erosion and conservation. Wiley, Chichester
Morrow LA, Stahlman PW (1984) The history and distribution of downy brome (Bromus tectorum) in North America. Weed Sci 32:2–6
Munson SM, Belnap J, Schelz CD, Moran M, Carolin TW (2011) On the brink of change: plant responses to climate on the Colorado Plateau. Ecosphere 2:15.
Munson SM, Duniway MC, Johanson JK (2016) Rangeland monitoring reveals long-term plant responses to precipitation and grazing at the landscape scale. Rangel Ecol Manag 69:76–83.
Munson SM, Webb RH, Houseman DC, Veblen KE, Nussear KE, Beever EA, Hartney KB, Miriti MN, Phillips SL, Fulton RE, Tallent NG (2015) Long-term plant responses to climate are moderated by biophysical attributes in a North American desert. J Ecol 103:657–668.
National Park System Advisory Board (2001) Rethinking the national parks for the 21st century. National Park Service, Washington DC
Neff J, Reynolds R, Belnap J, Lamothe P (2005) Multi-decadal impacts of grazing on soil physical and biogeochemical properties in southeast Utah. Ecol Appl 15:87–95
Ord JK, Getis A (1995) Local spatial autocorrelation statistics: distributional Issues and an application. Geogr Anal 27:286–306.
Pilliod DS, Welty JL, Arkle RS (2017) Refining the cheatgrass-fire cycle in the Great Basin: precipitation timing and fine fuel composition predict wildfire trends. Ecol Evol 7:8126–8151.
Pimentel D, Zuniga R, Morrison D (2005) Update on the environmental and economic costs associated with alien-invasive species in the United States. Ecol Econ 52:273–288
Prevéy JS, Seastedt TR (2014) Seasonality of precipitation interacts with exotic species to alter composition and phenology of a semi-arid grassland. J Ecol 102:1549–1561.
Prevéy JS, Seastedt TR (2015) Effects of precipitation change and neighboring plants on population dynamics of Bromus tectorum. Oecologia 179:765–775
R Development Core Team (2016) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Development Core Team, Vienna
Reisner MD, Grace JB, Pyke DA, Doescher PS (2013) Conditions favouring Bromus tectorum dominance of endangered sagebrush steppe ecosystems. J Appl Ecol 50:1039–1049.
Reynolds R, Neff J, Reheis M, Lamothe P (2006) Atmospheric dust in modern soil on aeolian sandstone, Colorado Plateau (USA): variation with landscape position and contribution to potential plant nutrients. Geoderma 130:108–123
Roundy BA, Hardegree SP, Chambers JC, Whittaker A (2007) Prediction of cheatgrass field germination potential using wet thermal accumulation. Rangel Ecol Manag 60:613–623.
Schwinning S, Ehleringer JR (2001) Water use trade-offs and optimal adaptations to pulse-driven arid ecosystems. J Ecol 89:464–480
Schwinning S, Belnap J, Bowling DR, Ehleringer JR (2008) Sensitivity of the Colorado plateau to change: climate, ecosystems, and society. Ecol Soc 13:28–47.
Serpe MD, Zimmerman SJ, Deines L, Rosentreter R (2008) Seed water status and root tip characteristics of two annual grasses on lichen-dominated biological soil crusts. Plant Soil 303:191–205
Sherrill KR, Romme WH (2012) Spatial variation in postfire cheatgrass: Dinosaur National Monument. USA Fire Ecol 8:38–56.
Smith LI (2002) A tutorial on principal components analysis. Cornell University, Ithaca
Soil Survey Staff (2015) Web soil survey. Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC
Songchitruksa P, Zeng X (2010) Getis-Ord spatial statistics to identify hot spots by using incident management data. Transp Res Rec 2165:42–51
St. Clair SB, O’Connor R, Gill R, McMillan B (2016) Biotic resistance and disturbance: rodent consumers regulate post-fire plant invasions and increase plant community diversity. Ecology 97:1700–1711.
State of Utah Division of Technology and Information Services (2003) Utah Automated Geographic Reference Center. https://gis.utah.gov
Stohlgren TJ, Ma P, Kumar S, Rocca M, Morisette JT, Jarnevich CS, Benson N (2010) Ensemble habitat mapping of invasive plant species. Risk Anal 30:224–235.
Thompson MP, Calkin DE, Finney MA, Ager AA, Gilbertson-Day JW (2011) Integrated national-scale assessment of wildfire risk to human and ecological values. Stoch Env Res Risk Assess 25:761–780.
Urza AK, Weisberg PJ, Chambers JC, Dhaemers JM, Board D (2017) Post-fire vegetation response at the woodland–shrubland interface is mediated by the pre-fire community. Ecosphere 8:e01851.
Utah Office of Tourism (2017) Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute Travel and tourism industry metrics. Utah Office of Tourism, Salt Lake City
Vitousek PM, Dantonio CM, Loope LL, Westbrooks R (1996) Biological invasions as global environmental change. Am Sci 84:468–478
Walker BH, Ludwig D, Holling CS, Peterman RM (1981) Stability of semi-arid savanna grazing systems. J Ecol 69(2):473–498
West AM, Evangelista PH, Jarnevich CS, Kumar S, Swallow A, Luizza MW, Chignell SM (2017) Using multi-date satellite imagery to monitor invasive grass species distribution in post-wildfire landscapes: an iterative, adaptable approach that employs open-source data and software International. J Appl Earth Observ Geoinform 59:135–146.
Wickham H (2016) ggplot2: Elegant graphics for data analysis. Springer, New York
Zuur A, Ieno EN, Smith GM (2007) Analyzing ecological data. Springer, New York
We gratefully acknowledge the funding provided by the Utah NASA Space Grant Consortium. Thanks to Phil Allen and Bruce Roundy for providing valuable feedback. We also thank Dennis Eggett for guidance on the statistical analysis, Ryan Howell and Catherine McQueen for their time and assistance in GIS data processing, and Kirk Sherrill for his dedication to remote sensing analysis. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
Bishop, T.B.B., Munson, S., Gill, R.A. et al. Spatiotemporal patterns of cheatgrass invasion in Colorado Plateau National Parks. Landscape Ecol 34, 925–941 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-019-00817-8
- Bromus tectorum
- Plant invasion
- Remote sensing
- Spatial modeling