Vegetation Community Monitoring

Midwestern plant communities set the stage for civil war battlefields, open landscapes, nature exploration, and contemplation of history. Plant communities in Heartland Network parks range from grasslands to forests. These plant communities are part of the story of the parks. But, parks still face threats. For example, parks treat invasive species, habitat loss, lack of fire, and other threats.

Restored and Remnant Prairies
Photo of restored prairie. Photo of remnant prairie.
Example of Restored Prairie. NPS-Photo
Example of Remnant Prairie. NPS-Photo
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Left: Humans reconstruct tallgrass prairies by planting prairie grasses and wildflowers. Prairies have few to no trees. Big bluestem, Indian grass, switchgrass, and little bluestem are important grasses. Frequent fire is very important for tallgrass prairie to thrive.

Right: Remnant prairies have never been plowed and native prairie wildflowers and grasses thrive. Prairies have few to no trees. Big bluestem, Indian grass, switchgrass, and little bluestem are important grasses. Frequent fire is very important for tallgrass prairie to thrive.




Oak Savanna and Woodland
Photo of oak savanna Photo of woodland/forest.
Example of Oak Savanna. NPS-Photo
Example of Woodland/Forest. NPS-Photo

Left: Savanna is a grassland with trees. The tree canopy may cover up to 30% of a savanna. Fire is important to maintaining the openness of the grassland understory.

Right: Scientists sometimes define woodlands as a bit more open than closed canopy forests. Woodlands may have frequent openings in the canopy where forests rarely do. Oak and hickory species characterize Heartland Network woodlands and forests. Periodic fire is important to maintaining healthy woodlands. Forests need fire less often than other community types.




Plant community data is critical information for park managers. We record plant species and how abundant they are at our parks. This information helps us understand changes in park vegetation. Tracking plant community trends is the basis for good conservation.

Monitoring Questions & Approach

We monitor plant communities in Heartland Network parks to learn about trends in species. There are three main monitoring questions:

  1. Which plant species are there and how do they relate to each other?
  2. Have species composition, structure, and diversity of plant communities changed over time?
  3. How does the environment influence plants? For example, how do weather, climate change, management actions, and past land use shape the plant communities?

Monitoring Updates

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    Monitoring Reports

    Source: Data Store Collection 3925. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

    Monitoring Protocols

    Source: Data Store Collection 4447. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

    Last updated: October 15, 2018