An invasive plant is a non-native species that aggressively spreads when it's introduced to a new range. In the Mojave Desert Network, invasive plants are one of the single largest threats to the integrity of our desert ecosystem and our cultural resources.
Once established, invasive species affect park resources and visitor enjoyment in complex ways. For example, invasive grasses such as red brome and cheatgrass displace native plants and change the ecological processes in the region by intensifying the size and frequency of wildfires. Slow growing and long-lived native desert plants are generally not adapted to wildfires and may not survive. Other examples of desert invaders include tamarisk in riparian areas, thistle species (Salsola spp.) in sensitive dune systems, and mustards (particularly Sisymbrium spp. and Brassica tournefortii) in a variety of park ecosystems.
The Mojave Desert Network is developing a cost-effective approach for early detection and monitoring of invasive plants. Early detection increases the likelihood that invasions will be addressed while populations are localized and and small enough to be contained or eradicated. This method targets a priority list of both newly encroaching and established species, and integrates information from other park programs and network-sponsored vegetation monitoring work (e.g., Integrated Upland monitoring and Spring Vegetation monitoring).