, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 45–57 | Cite as

Distribution and Drivers of a Widespread, Invasive Wetland Grass, Phragmites australis, in Wetlands of the Great Salt Lake, Utah, USA

  • A. Lexine Long
  • Karin M. Kettenring
  • Charles P. Hawkins
  • Christopher M. U. Neale
Original Research


The introduced grass Phragmites australis (hereafter Phragmites) is one of the most widespread invasive plants in North American wetlands. Phragmites has been extensively studied in some regions of North America, such as the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes. However, little research has evaluated the extent of Phragmites invasion in the Intermountain West and the environmental drivers that have promoted its spread, particularly in the critically important Great Salt Lake (GSL) wetlands. Here we use high-resolution multispectral imagery to map the current distribution of Phragmites around GSL. We then identify factors associated with Phragmites presence in GSL using a species distribution model using the Random Forest algorithm. We contrast these findings with what is known about Phragmites invasion in other regions. We estimate that Phragmites occupies over 93 km2 around GSL. Phragmites was more likely to be found in wetland areas close to point sources of pollution, at lower elevations with prolonged inundation, and with moderate salinities. Results from our study will assist wetlands managers in prioritizing areas for Phragmites monitoring and control by identifying likely areas of prime Phragmites habitat.


Phragmites australis Remote sensing Species distribution modeling Saline wetlands Great Salt Lake 



This research was supported by: Environmental Protection Agency; Kennecott Utah Copper Charitable Foundation; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Utah Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands; Utah Division of Water Quality; Utah Division of Wildlife Resources; Utah Wetlands Foundation; and the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station. We thank the Kettenring Wetland Ecology Lab, A. Mashish, N. Hough-Snee, and J. Wheaton for assistance with data processing and manuscript feedback. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their valuable feedback.


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Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Watershed Sciences and Ecology CenterUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  2. 2.Daugherty Water for Food Global InstituteUniversity of NebraskaLincolnUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research StationWenatcheeUSA

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